Marriott International announced last week at ASTA’s World
Congress in Montreal that it had created guidelines for all agents
that will be used to root out fraudulent travel agent “card
The move had been in discussion for several years, according to
Fred Miller, vice president of global sales for the hotel company,
but the announcement of the guidelines came in response to a call
to action by ASTA president Kathy Sudeikis.
“As Kathy said, it is up to suppliers to do something about
these abusers,” said Miller. “They are a detriment to agents, to
suppliers and to consumers. And we decided it was time for Marriott
to be the first to step up to the plate.”
Miller said the company will have an internal committee
comprised solely of Marriott personnel that will review the
guidelines to determine how exactly they will be applied in each
individual case. All agents, however, will be held to these
guidelines in order to receive Marriott’s Famtastic preferred agent
“It’s right in line with what the National Association of
Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA) and ASTA have wanted,” said
NACTA president Joanie Ogg.
Miller said that more information on the application of the
guidelines will be announced as the company studies the issue
further in the months ahead.
“Card Mill” Indicators
The existence of some or all of the following
factors are indicators of a “card mill”:
The company’s primary business appears to be
selling travel agent training, annual memberships, or travel agent
ID cards, generally by promoting the purchaser’s personal travel
benefits rather than the profitability of selling travel.
The company’s cards represent that the holder is a
travel agent and is actively engaged on an agency’s behalf in
selling to the general public, even though many or all of the
holders generate little or not actual travel business.
The company promises to supply for a fee training
materials and travel agent support services that will adequately
equip the purchaser to function as a travel agent.
The company’s promotional literature contains an
excessive amount of references to cards and/or cardholders’ status
as being “official, certified, accredited, endorsed, and/or
approved,” implying that persons who purchase cards automatically
enjoy good standing with industry accrediting bodies or with
The company’s cards and/or promotional literature
fail to disclose that many suppliers such as airlines and large
hotel chains do not recognize the card and/or membership.
The company’s Marriott International sales are
disproportionately at Famtastic rates or other travel industry
The company offers the purchaser an opportunity to
recruit other agents and earn fees for each recruit as well as each
time the recruit books travel.
SunTrips Commissions Delayed
According to several travel agents, tour operator
SunTrips has continued to delay payments on agent commissions, and
now clients are receiving the brunt of the instability at
“I've heard of clients being walked from hotels
because of nonpayment from SunTrips said Chris Russo, president of
Rocky Mountain ASTA. “One agency in particular has a group next
week that has been moved three times because the hotels will not
accept SunTrips documents.”
The tour operator also canceled operations to
Cancun until February, according to an agent.
“SunTrips is refunding all Cancun vacation packages
in full,” according to an e-mail recent sent to TravelAge
West from an agent. “Unfortunately, they are not processing
these refunds normally.”
Clients are being told they will have to wait at
least three weeks to get a credit card refund and four to six weeks
for check payments, according to an agent.
When contacted last month about delayed agent
commissions, the company’s general manager said in a statement that
the delay was temporary and commission would be processed the week
ending Oct. 21.
As of this month, several travel agents have told
TravelAge West that they were still waiting on their
The company’s president recently released a brief
statement saying that commissions will be paid once Suntrips
“SunTrips is taking the necessary steps to pay
travel agent commissions. Once the sale between OneTravel Holdings
and Crystal Finance is completed SunTrips will be evaluating
commissions and bringing them up-to-date. The sale is expected to
be final at the end of November 2005.”
The delayed payments have caused some agents to
lose faith in the company.
“This does not feel good,” said Barbara Ann Roby of
Marketplace Travel. “We’re not going to believe anything they say
Attacked at Sea
Pirates in two small boats carrying machine guns and other
weapons attempted to attack Seabourn Cruise Lines’ “Spirit” off the
coast of Somalia, according to reports. The crew issued an
emergency response system, and the ship eventually out ran the
pirates’ boats. While the pirates weren’t able to board the Spirit,
passengers reported shots being fired at the luxury cruiseline’s
ship. About 300 people were onboard; one person suffered minor
injuries, according to reports.
The Walt Disney Travel Company is making the Magic Your Way
packages a little more magical by adding special features,
including a Disney’s PhotoPass, Planet Hollywood dining and
merchandise, as well as preferred fireworks viewing.
When agents book a Magic Your Way package, clients receive a
free Disney’s PhotoPass print, redeemable only online. Clients also
receive one meal voucher and one souvenir voucher per reservation
for Planet Hollywood, located in Downtown Disney.
A voucher for access to preferred viewing locations to watch
“Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” at the Magic Kingdom Park and
“Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” at Epcot is also available
when booking the package.
The six-night, seven-day Magic Your Way starts at $433 per
adult, double occupancy, during value season and from $533 during
In addition, the package includes accommodations at a Disney
Value Resort, Magic Your Way base ticket for seven days, Park
Hopper option and a Water Park Fun & More option.
Complex planned for Cable Beach
Two powerhouses in the gaming and hospitality fields have
partnered to create what is billed as the largest single-phase
development in the Caribbean, located in the Cable Beach area of
Nassau, Bahamas. Harrah’s Entertainment and Starwood Hotels &
Resorts Worldwide will offer a 1,000-acre, mixed-use resort
project, whose first phase represents an investment of $1.6 billion
and a room count of 3,550 units.
Construction will begin in 2007 with the first phase scheduled
to open in 2010.
Plans call for four hotels, including the only collection of
four Starwood brands at a single resort, and the debut of the first
Caesars Hotel project since Caesars was acquired by Harrah’s last
The hotels comprise a 300-room W, including 100 condo units; a
300-room St. Regis, also with 100 condos; a 700-room Westin; and a
Club Med Campaigns
Over the last seven years, Club Med has invested over $1 billion
in product and service upgrades, and is now launching a nationwide
campaign to promote its upscale facilities.
The company’s new Share the World campaign kicked off last month
in New York City with “share the groove.” The company distributed
complimentary CDs from Putamayo, featuring world music symbolic of
the 100 Club Med resorts around the world. Each month, a new
experience unique to Club Med will fill the streets nationwide to
entice travelers with music, beaches and snow-covered
Air New Zealand’s New Fleet
In an effort to extend its long-haul operations, Air New Zealand
has ordered eight Boeing 777-200ER aircrafts that will eventually
replace many of its 767-300s.
The new interior consists of a three-class layout of Business
Premier, Pacific Premium Economy and Pacific Economy, featuring the
longest lie-flat seat available in business class.
In total, four of the new 313-seat 770-200 ER aircrafts will be
purchased by Air New Zealand, and four will be leased from
International Lease Finance Corporation (IFC). The purchase cost of
the four aircrafts and maintenance of the fleet of eight is more
than $700 million.
By early 2007, the company will offer 6,826 available seats
across 21 aircrafts, representing a nearly 30 percent increase in
Fantasy Could Cease Operations
Fantasy Holidays, a 25-year-old packager of vacations to Italy
and Hawaii, stopped answering its phones, creating concern in the
travel agent community.
Although the company’s Web site continued to appear operational,
attempts to log into its booking engine failed. In addition,
Fantasy Holidays isn’t returning calls or e-mails, according to
Early this month, Travel Guard International added Fantasy
Holidays to its list of companies it will not cover in case of