News From TheTradeShow

*Amadeus Adresses Surcharge
*ASTA's New President
*Home-Based Series

TheTradeShow Travel Retail and Destination Expo took place Sept. 10-12 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.; and it offered something for just about everyone. The first annual ASTA event brought travel agents together with suppliers, industry leaders and consumers, who were invited on the first day of the show to hear live radio broadcasts and speakers, such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin and popular “European travel skills” expert, Rick Steves.

Agents had plenty of opportunities to network and hold appointments during the two-day open-floor trade show. Though some suppliers found floor traffic a bit “slow,” others were heartened by the interest level agents were showing in their product.

“We’ve had many agents come to learn about our business. That’s why it’s so important for us to be here,” said Yimei Guo, general manager for China Travel Service (U.S.A.), Inc.

Educational opportunities also abounded, with seminars on topics ranging from home-based businesses to Hispanic markets. CLIA and The Travel Institute presented a number of courses. And the Technology Pavilion offered some hands-on seminars, such as “Search Engine Optimization for Your Web site,” designed to boost agents’ tech savviness.

One of the most popular Industry Sessions focused on the Cruise Industry, and featured Terry Dale, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), plus an impressive cruise panel that included Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales; Mark Conroy, Regent Seven Seas Cruises president; and Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Carnival Cruise Lines.

The panel agreed that 2007 bookings seem to be coming in nicely, but there’s still some softness in the fourth quarter of 2006.

“People are still wary of hurricanes,” noted Royal Caribbean’s Bauer.

For agents, that means there’s still time to push those holiday sailings. And everyone was reassured when the panel members emphasized the ongoing importance of travel agents. Travel agent bookings still represent a solid 85 percent of total cruise bookings, said the panelists.

There was plenty of time for accolades at TheTradeShow as well. The third annual black-tie Advocacy Dinner at the Portofino Hotel lauded ASTA’s One Voice advocacy role before Congress and in state legislatures. (Rolling back excessive taxes on rental car rates was a big victory this year.)

A little merriment was also in store for the evening. It came in the form of a special performance by cast members of the smash-hit musical “Spamelot,” based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” With the help of some audience participation and sound effects, the performers delivered a rousing rendition of the film’s iconic theme, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

A motto most agents, no doubt, already take to heart.

By Ana Figueroa

Amadeus Addresses Northwest Airlines Surcharge

Amadeus recently released a letter to travel professionals regarding Northwest Airlines’ announcement to add a $3.50 surcharge on all travel agency bookings made via the Amadeus System.

The letter stated that Amadeus has been engaged in legal actions with Northwest over the parties’ contractual obligations, and a hearing scheduled for Aug. 29, has been postponed, which “will give Amadeus and Northwest further opportunity to come to a mutual agreement regarding their ongoing commercial relationship.”

“As negotiations and legal proceedings are ongoing, we are not able to provide additional comments or specific details on the commercial issues or speculate on the future of any legal matters,” the letter continued. “However, Amadeus has decided to extend the interim relief measure to mitigate the economic impact of the Northwest surcharge on your business.”

Beginning Sept. 1, Amadeus agreed to reimburse its agencies for all of the announced segment surcharges incurred on both Northwest and American Airlines bookings made via the Amadeus System. The statement said that the GDS did not anticipate any impact to agency incentives related to this interim relief measure.

Thrifty, ATA Offer ‘Triple Points’

Thrifty Car Rental recently joined ATA Airlines’ Travel Awards program and will offer ATA Travel Awards members 75 points per car rental when renting with Thrifty.

To kick off the program, Thrifty will offer triple points (225 points per rental) to Travel Awards members who rent a premium, luxury, minivan, convertible or standard-size SUV for two days or longer. The offer is available through Nov. 15 on qualifying rentals booked via Thrifty’s Web site on the “Partner Specials” page.

“ATA Airlines and Thrifty Car Rental are a perfect match,” said Brian Carpenter, vice president of sales, marketing and advertising for Thrifty. “ATA’s philosophy of providing convenient travel at affordable rates is compatible with Thrifty’s value proposition. Consumers will benefit greatly from this relationship.”

AVC Makes Health Insurance Available

Affordable health insurance packages are now available for the home-based independent contractors of America’s Vacation Center (AVC).

Product offerings include major medical, limited medical, life insurance, dental and vision insurance, accident/short-term disability insurance, prescription discount card and more. Agents will also be able to choose from a selection of insurance providers such as AIG, Genworth and Assurity to offer comprehensive coverage to travel professionals across the country. Agents can also receive guidance in selecting the best package to meet their needs.

“This is another way we prove that at AVC, you’re in business for yourself, but not by yourself,” said Brad Anderson, co-president of AVC.

Hudak Sworn in as President and CEO of ASTA

Cheryl Hudak, CTC, owner of Travel Dimensions in Boardman, Ohio, was elected as the president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Sept. 10, at TheTradeShow in Orlando, Fla. Hudak will now begin her year-long term as ASTA’s national president. Previously, Hudak served as national vice president.

A member of ASTA since 1986, Hudak currently serves as Chair of Industry Affairs, as well as on TheTradeShow 2006 Committee, and sits on the Akron Canton Airport Travel Agent Advisory Board. Hudak has also served on ASTA’s Budget and Finance Committee, Future Planning Committee and Tour Operators Program. Previously, Hudak served on the Board of Directors as director of Area 7 (Allegheny, Michigan and Mid-America). She chaired ASTA’s 2000 World Travel Congress in Las Vegas. In 1994, she co-chaired the Society’s Super Regional Conference in New York City, which drew 1,000 travel agents from throughout the Midwest and East Coast.

In 1985, Hudak opened Travel Dimensions, and in 1996, she purchased another agency to form a larger and more effective business. Travel Dimensions is a full-service agency handling leisure, corporate travel and cruises. In 1989, Hudak received her Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) distinction from the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA).

Hudak has served on the Alamo Car Rental advisory board, the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and GEM advisory boards and Travel Agent magazine’s advisory board. Additionally, Hudak currently serves on Thrifty/Dollar Car Rental’s Advisory Board. Travel Agent named Hudak one of the Most Powerful Women in Travel in 1999 and one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Travel in 2000. She is also the host of a half-hour radio show on travel.

Also elected were Mary Peters as vice president/secretary and Mike McCulloh as treasurer.

NESTing in the Bahamas

The Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel (NEST) announced that Nest Fest 2006 will include a three-day Bahamas cruise. The second-annual conference will be held on Carnival’s Sensation Oct. 26-29 cruise, roundtrip from Port Canaveral, Fla.

The event includes guest speakers, product seminars from preferred suppliers, sales and marketing training, a supplier trade show and networking opportunities, including a “Welcome Aboard” private cocktail reception sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines.

Nest Fest will also feature the Home-Based Success Series, grassroots educational seminars giving home-based agents tips on how to build successful group business, with speakers Kathleen Kavanagh and Alleigh Grieder, along with representatives from Royal Caribbean International/Celebrity Cruises. The series will be open to all home-based agents.

Report: U.S. Tourism Gets a Boost

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) has announced its new plan to strengthen the country’s competitiveness in the world travel and tourism market. Through the report “Restoring America’s Travel Brand: A National Strategy to Compete for International Visitors,” the TTAB makes recommendations for drawing visitors, ensuring hospitality and safety, having a nationally coordinated marketing program and measuring the economic impact of the tourism industry.

The strategies detailed will be reviewed by the Tourism Policy Council, an interagency group consisting of 17 federal agencies and chaired by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez.

“Travel and tourism is a critical component to the U.S. economy and the industry has made great strides in recovering from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Gutierrez.

OSSN Online

The Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN) has unveiled a new version of its Web site.

The new site will feature more than 5,500 individual Web pages designed for home-based travel agents, an online WelcomeCenter with links to OSSN’s most requested aids, as well as tools and a new navigation menu. These resources are designed to help members search quickly through the thousands of pages of information OSSN offers.

Previously only offered via mail or phone, an online version of the OSSN Member Manual is now available, which quickly downloads and reads like a printed book with the use of NXTbook software.

The upgrades are part of a nine-month redevelopment by OSSN and Primary Hub, a Phoenix-based Web developer.

Home-Based Series

NACTA, Globus Family of Brands, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are teaming up to bring home-based agents a more intense fall season of Home-Based Success Series.

The four-hour events will include group, product, sales and marketing training. Speakers include Alleigh Grieder, director of sales and marketing, NACTA; Kathleen Kavanagh, home-based channel manager, Globus Family of Brands; Joanie Ogg, CTC, president, NACTA and; and a Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises professional trainer who will show agents the benefits of

Upcoming seminars will be held in Minneapolis (Oct. 16); New Orleans (Oct. 17); San Antonio, Texas (Oct. 18); Albuquerque, N.M. (Oct. 19); and Las Vegas (Oct. 20). The series is open to all home-based agency owners, staff travel agents and outside agents. Registration is $15 and includes a breakfast. The registration deadline is Oct. 13.