Selling Spring Break
A shorter spring break season
could mean bigger crowds.
With about 30 percent of U.S. adults including college students and families with children expected to hit the skies and roads for spring break this year, several online sites are offering resources for agents seeking to tap into this market.
This year, the college spring break schedule begins Feb. 18 and runs through April 26, but most university spring breaks will occur March 10-17. The shorter travel season four weeks instead of the normal six could result in larger crowds, particularly the week before Easter (March 16-23).
Even though Farecast.com says average airfares for travel in March will be up about 10 percent over last year, travel experts still expect about the same number of college students to take about the same number of spring break vacations as last year. And Expedia.com officials said a cold winter in much of the country is sparking interest in trips to warmer climates such as Florida, Las Vegas and Mexico.
At TripSmarter.com, agents can find a variety of spring break resources including a college break dates calendar for dozens of colleges in North America, spring break photo galleries from various destinations and listings of events and concerts in key cities.
At KeepYouSafe.com, agents can urge travelers to avoid the risk of losing important information while on the road by using an “online safe-deposit box.” Travelers can upload any type of important document, including scans of passports, birth certificates and credit card numbers. The scans up to 10 for free are kept in an encrypted Keep-YouSafe online safe-deposit box that travelers can access in an emergency.
ASTA has also ramped up its spring break offerings at its consumer Web site, TravelSense.org, offering travel tips, up-to-date passport information, destination articles and travel agents’ contact information.
“The keys to a successful spring break vacation are researching the destination, advanced planning and making safety the number-one priority,” said Cheryl Hudak, ASTA president and CEO.
ASTA Boosts Resources
ASTA has added several new online resources for its members at its ASTA.org site, including an enhanced WebExchange, international learning community, updated cruise-related resources and information and white papers on employee productivity and evaluations.
Improvements to Web Exchange an online business-to-business tool that connects travel agents and suppliers include a new, more navigable format and the ability for members to manage and edit postings and add HTML messages. Meanwhile, the international learning community allows members to contact and exchange information with others in 140 countries and includes postings on everything from cruising and golf excursions to Nazareth as a vacation destination.
ASTA’s enhanced cruise information includes reviews, pricing and cruising trends for 2008, an “orderbook” of new cruise ships along with their estimated delivery dates and an updated online cruise line directory.
“These resources were created with our members in mind,” said Cheryl Hudak, ASTA president and CEO. “We are dedicated to continually improving, updating and adding new resources and features to ASTA.org that will educate our members, allow them to remain competitive and retain their status as travel experts.”
HAL Site Adds Tools
Holland America Line has redesigned its Web site with detailed virtual samplings of the line’s cruise vacations to help agents guide clients toward choosing the right cruise-tour out of the options available.
The site, HollandAmerica.com, combines updated graphics, reorganized information and search tools that underscore details and diversity. An interactive map lets users click on a continent and zoom in on a particular destination with access to port details, shore excursions and itineraries.
A gallery filled with photos, video clips, virtual tours, e-brochures and podcasts showcases vacation options and ship details. Video clips give an overview of dining, shipboard activities and global destinations. Podcasts narrate the art and antiques displayed on each ship. A new Cruise Finder tool helps narrow options for itineraries. Visitors may select up to three itineraries to compare side by side. And a new Alaska Tour Guide tool asks users to rate photos based on their personal preferences and then recommends three cruise-tours based on responses.
“Our hope is that agents will use the Web site as a selling tool to engage potential clients,” said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “We redesigned our site to offer a virtual experience that offers a true flavor of the cruise that awaits our guests...”
Holland America also has revamped its agent portal with new selling tools and other resources. Registered agents can make reservations with POLAR online, manage groups, access sales tools and promotions, order sales materials and register for training with HAL Academy.
Holland America Line
Kahn Travel Communications and its founder and marketing executive Richard S. Kahn, has launched www.CaribbeanVacationNews.com, providing news, deals and editorial features about travel in the Caribbean region.
An independent news and information site written by news reporters and travel journalists, information includes articles on the “ins and outs” of the Caribbean, snapshots of the islands that link directly to the official Web site of each destination, regular updates about new hotels or new facilities and amenities at existing hotels and resorts, and features on new sightseeing and other facilities.
“We want consumers to use this site as a guide to learn about new hotels, vacation packages, great deals, restaurants and attractions and then follow the links to either those products or the destination connections for more information,” said Kahn, who manages the site. “This site will not contain detailed information about every destination and hotel in the region; that would just duplicate what is already available elsewhere,” Kahn points out, adding: “Rather, we will update the news regularly so that the site remains fresh as well as provide vacation deals as they become available.”
Kahn also is blogging on the site about personal Caribbean vacation experiences and insight into “behind the scenes” in the Caribbean. Regular sweepstakes giveaways for hotel stays as well as vacation packages will be conducted in random drawings from among visitors who subscribe to the site’s monthly newsletter.
Parks by Podcast
Embracing the latest technology to make California’s state parks more accessible to the public, the California State Parks Foundation has launched a free podcast series highlighting the diversity and features of the statewide network of parks.
The series includes narration, music, historical tales and educational information about the parks. The first podcast in January included a seven-minute episode on Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, the original site of a town founded and run by freed black slaves. February’s podcast features Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, site of California’s first discovery of gold.
March’s podcast will cover Año Nuevo State Reserve, famous for the annual visit of the northern elephant seal. A new episode will be posted each month on one of California’s 278 state parks.
“We are excited we are able to launch this new series and use cutting edge technology to share the fun and interesting stories about California’s state parks,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, the foundation president.
The audio is free at www.calparks.org and at the iTunes store.
Amex, Revelex Deal
American Express Consumer Travel Network and Revelex Corp. are working to jointly develop a new, integrated consumer travel desktop that will allow American Express travel agents to book air, car, hotel and cruise travel in one application. The new platform will be designed to allow American Express agents to book travel faster and more efficiently across all channels call centers, travel offices and home-based. American Express will pilot the technology platform in mid-2008 and plans a travel agent rollout in early 2009.
New AVC Portal EW
America’s Vacation Center has launched Vacation Explorer, a portal on its Web-based Agent Power software that allows home-based agents and independent affiliates to access and book live inventory with AVC’s preferred tour operators and vacation package suppliers. Agent Power integrates leads for travelers looking for agent help, booking tools, commission tracking and customer relationship management tools.
America's Vacation Center
Honolulu-based retail agency Panda Travel has launched a Hawaii travel-booking site targeted to gay men and women. HawaiiGayTravel.com includes a blog with travel information specific to the gay and lesbian travel communities, as well as special package deals and details on Hawaii nightlife, theater and arts, shopping and events.
VAX VacationAccess recently added a hotel booking engine to its platform that allows agents to research and book hotel accommodations worldwide without leaving the VAX VacationAccess platform. The Hotel Only booking engine includes thousands of hotels at more than 1,000 destinations worldwide. Travel professionals can earn up to 10 percent commission on Hotel Only bookings.
VAX Vacation Access
Seeking to boost corporate travel efficiencies through social networking, Sabre Travel Network said it plans to launch an Enterprise 2.0 Community Platform called Cubeless designed specifically for corporate employees to share travel information.
The community features of Cubeless are designed to combine the knowledge base of employees from local to global and make it easy to share advice and recommendations about travel and other topics.
American Express Business Travel and Sabre are partnering on the initial launch of Cubeless, scheduled for mid-2008. Cubeless will be offered as a new module from Sabre’s GetThere booking solution.
Sabre launched its own employee community of Cubeless last year and reports more than 10,000 profiles have been submitted.
Sabre Travel Network