NEWS BRIEFS 3-18-2006

*'State Department' Scam
*Travelocity Flap
*SunTrips and More

‘State Department’ Scam

Dallas-based Campbell Travel discovered a new scam directed at travel agencies the hard way, by getting ripped off.

A woman describing herself as a U.S. embassy employee in Mexico City phoned the agency saying she would be buying air tickets on behalf of embassy staff. The caller ordered $75,000 worth of airline tickets on nine non-U.S. carriers, and has since disappeared.

Owner Bob Campbell said the agency, which so far has received three debit memos from the airlines for about $5,000, determined that most of the tickets were converted into vouchers. He said the agency reported the incident and the voucher numbers to the airlines, and as far as he and CEO Bill Campbell can determine, no airline has used the information to intercept the perpetrators.

Agency officials stepped forward to tell their story for two reasons: to alert other travel professionals and to remind agents they won’t get much help from airlines in preventing big losses. Though Campbell Travel may end up being liable for the tickets and the agency acknowledged the fraudster managed to circumvent controls meant to avoid such fraud they hold the carriers liable, as well, for failing to put a stop to the ongoing theft.

“In talking to the carriers, they just say the rest [of the debit memos] will be coming,” Bill Campbell said.

Meanwhile, the State Department said that every office location has one travel management center and, “per department policy, U.S. government personnel assigned at the post are to use [that center] when making official travel arrangements.”

Agents who wish to report fraud or suspicions about phony embassy staff can call the Office of the Inspector General at 800-409-9926 or e-mail

HAL Clears Up Travelocity Flap

Holland America Line said it wanted to “clarify” its group policy in relation to Travelocity this month “due to confusion.”

According to a release from HAL, the problem began when Travelocity issued a news release that said it planned to have a hospitality desk onboard Holland America cruise ships to help Travelocity customers, leading to concern in the travel agent community. However, HAL claims that the release was not given to them for prior review and that the release was misleading. HAL also stated it will not allow a hospitality desk as part of Travelocity’s AARP program or for Travelocity’s group bookings.

In addition, HAL’s release said that all onboard leader/escorts, including Travelocity’s, are required to sign HAL’s Onboard Code of Ethical Conduct, which states that onboard group leaders cannot and will not solicit sales from guests not booked through their specific program.

Initial reaction to the Travelocity release was negative among some travel agents, with agencies considering boycotting sailings that had Travelocity help desks onboard.

SunTrips Sale Has New Terms

OneTravel Holdings completed its sale of SunTrips to Crystal Hospitality Holdings under restructured terms that consist primarily of a requirement for Crystal to spend at least $1.2 million annually for seven years to cover SunTrips’ liabilities.

The sale went through in spite of a class-action lawsuit filed in February on behalf of travel agents who claimed to be owed more than $1 million in commissions.

Crystal Holdings officials said the company was committed to paying 100 percent of the commissions as soon as the sale was completed.

SunTrips had suffered losses for an extended period of time and needed an influx of cash to stop the hemorrhaging and put the company back on track, according to OneTravel president Marc Bercoon.

Matthew Holliday, president of SunTours, which operates the SunTrips brand, added, “The SunTrips brand is still very strong, but capital constraints as well as inherited operational inefficiencies have greatly limited our ability to make and implement strategic decisions that may have enabled us to turn the business around.”

OneTravel said Crystal will call all SunTrips passengers who are scheduled to travel after April 3 to confirm their travel plans or arrange alternatives.

Deals to South America

The inaugural flight of LAN Peru’s direct service between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil, is scheduled to begin on March 22, with four flights per week.

To promote the new route, LAN Peru is offering passengers a special fare via its Web site of $499 roundtrip from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Tickets must be issued before the inaugural flight and travel must be completed by May 30.

In addition, LAN Peru also offers connecting flights between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo (via Lima) on two additional days (Tuesdays and Saturdays southbound, and Mondays and Wednesdays northbound), giving passengers the choice of six weekly flights between the U.S. West Coast and Brazil.


Name Change

As of March 7, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has become Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The rebranding constitutes an upgrade of the product rather than a change in management, according to Carlson Companies, the parent company of both Radisson and Regent.

Mark Conroy, newly named president of Regent land and sea (formerly president and CEO of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises), said that the cruise line is in a position to help in the development and growth of the hotel business (which has eight hotels and will open another nine in the next two years), whereas in its early phases the fledgling cruise line benefited from its association with the Radisson hotel business.

ITB Berlin Sets Record

The 40th ITB Berlin offered a record number of participants this year, with 10,856 exhibiting companies from 183 countries. To mark the 40th anniversary a prize draw took place with a thousand travel-related prizes from city breaks to cruises and a top prize of a FIAT Panda Racing sponsored by the Italian National Tourist Office.

The event also began offering entrance to the general public this year, in an effort to promote the latest travel trends.

Thrifty Offers Triple Miles

Thrifty Car Rental will offer customers triple miles with Delta Air Lines through May 31. Delta SkyMiles members who rent a mid-size or larger vehicle for two to seven days will earn triple miles 150 miles per rental day.

Qualifying rentals must be booked via using PC code DLT6.

The Happiest Spa on Earth

A new luxury spa facility, Mandara Spa, is scheduled to open at Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel this month. The guestrooms of the hotel will also receive renovations to be completed over the next six months.

In addition, The Paradise Pier Hotel will be updated with the remodeling of the hotel’s Pacific Ballroom and Yamabuki, Japanese restaurant.

NACTA Benefit

National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA) members with a TravelSellers Identification Code are eligible to register their agency for a trial program to receive commissions on Marriott brands, provided they have passed the Marriott Hotel Excellence Program. This program will pay commissions to qualified NACTA members through Dec. 31.

NACTA members may register for the program by going to NACTA’s Web site. All registrations must be made through NACTA not through Marriott.

Ensemble to Ryder Cup

Clients of Ensemble Travel Group can enjoy exclusive perks including free shore excursions when they book the 2006 Ryder Cup golf package in Ireland aboard the Seabourn Pride through an Ensemble Travel Group member agency.

Dates for the 14- and 10-night departures are Sept. 15-29 and Sept. 15-25. Both include four nights port aboard the yacht-like vessel in Dublin during the Ryder Cup.

The 10-night trip starts $9,904 per person, double occupancy, while the 14-night trip starts at $10,700.


Signature Values

Signature Travel Network recently launched Value Finder, a new technology release designed to keep Signature members and their clients on the forefront of cruise specials and new offers.

Signature members and clients create profiles based on preferences, and offers that match are automatically e-mailed to the users. The service will soon expand to text and instant messaging as well.