Monday, March 28, 2011

Travel Needs a Makeover!

Whatever happened to the days of getting excited about traveling to faraway places and lands of the un-discovered? Even if you are only traveling within the US, there are cities to be visited, museums to see and in my case fabulous new restaurants to discover. But this part of life has lost its luster and shine, and personally I intend to bring it back.
A travel consultant used to be able to make things happen, but the airlines, hotels and even the destination is making it more difficult for a travel “agent” to make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the need for the travel consultant who is a specialist in certain cities, countries, cruises and faraway destinations. But confirming a coach seat is not what I need a travel consultant for – that is what an agent does and I can do that myself. So where does that leave the industry?
If you are a travel agent you should get ready for a major shakeup. Do you deliver exceptional service everyday in every way, or are you just in the business so that you can personally make connections and travel the world? Do you put yourself in the shoes of your corporate traveler or are you only concerned with their holiday plans? Travel search is getting easier and cooler by the minute and to survive and thrive an agent needs to become a consultant who can deliver results.
Look at the sites out there that travel consumers are using every day:
• Seatguru by
The OTA’s (on line travel agents) are fighting with airlines, airlines are trying to make customers go direct, and in the meantime, the real road warrior like me is stuck in the middle seat – COACH! I have had it and I will figure out how to beat them at their own game. I currently sat next to a guy on a flight to Sydney who used “HIPMUNK” to book his ticket – great price and a better seat than me. Then of course there is Kayak which also searches for the best deals. Now I have never been a fan of the D.I.Y. world but if my travel agent is not being empowered to help me get better flights than what am I to do?
So here is my idea – if I were a travel agent – I would immediately become a true “travel consultant” and I would use all tools and resources available so that I could provide my customers with the most up to the minute information (not just what the major airlines feed me) but what millions of D.I.Y. “ers” are using and searching with to find a better deal, better seat and a better route. When a person like me who has over 4 million miles on United Airlines and over 3 million miles on American Airlines is seated for a 14 hour flight in coach, in a middle seat and the guy next to her paid half of what I paid there is something wrong.
Listen up everyone – start using all the resources available to you to travel the globe. Don’t let all the negative press about the airlines and travel stop you from seeing the world. It is amazing where we live and how sad not to explore it. I am truly an explorer – I love to see new horizons, try new food, visit ruins of faraway lands and I won’t let my middle seat to Sydney from St. Petersburg ruin it for me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Love for Russia!

Oh Dr. Zhivago!

Let me just tell you that I have traveled around this world, many, many times and I finally landed in an unknown place - St. Petersberg, Russia. Just as I pictured it and breathtaking. Let me share!

Russian Cuisine – let’s have a party and celebrate this great history of food and “vodka!” So I arrive in St. Petersburg to work and knowing that this was my first trip to Russia I was so excited to see what I have only read about in books or watched in movies. I was thrilled to find the hidden gems that make up this vibrant city. For those that know me, I have always been a big fan of “vodka.” Dirty martinis have been among my favorite – but now – I am all about the chilled shot glass with the Russian Standard Vodka with eggs and caviar.

Let's talk about the beautiful architecture: The Church of Our Savior on The Spilled Blood is just magnificent Walking through the city on a cold, snowy day just conjures up images in your mind of years gone by. This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. After assuming power in 1855 in the wake of Russia’s disastrous defeat in the Crimean war against Britain, France and Turkey, Alexander II initiated a number of reforms. In 1861 he freed the Russian serfs (peasants, who were almost enslaved to their owners) from their ties to their masters and undertook a rigorous program of military, judicial and urban reforms, never before attempted in Russia.

However, during the second half of his reign Alexander II grew wary of the dangers of his system of reforms, having only barely survived a series of attempts on his life, including an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. Alexander II was finally assassinated in 1881 by a group of revolutionaries, who threw a bomb at his royal carriage. The decision was taken to build a church on the spot where the Emperor was mortally wounded. The church was built between 1883 and 1907 and was officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church (a.k.a. The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood ). The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years and was finally re-opened in 1997 in all its dazzling former glory. The view of the church from Nevsky Prospekt (the main street in St. Petersburg) is absolutely breathtaking.

Needless to say, I am ready for my return!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Customers Wanting More!

Service is about attention to detail. Whether it is Five Star Dining or a hotel – it doesn’t matter how much you pay if you do not get the small attention to detail. The amount of travelers out there today is amazing – the crunch is coming to an end and people are paying to fly business or first class, stay in luxury hotels and wait in line at luxury boutiques. I am not talking about millionaires, I am talking about everyday people that are back to enjoying life – BUT ….. with that said – you better be prepared to treat them so well they will return for more. Does every employee on your team know how important the guest is – does everyone smile, call people by names or….do they treat their customer as a nuisance? I am beginning to find nicer people out there traveling – not necessarily working in the service business but the travelers – they have made a conscious choice to get out, get on a plane and travel. They want to be treated well.

Just watch this latest video on some of the guests that are traveling but not necessarily in the luxury world – remember we have to know our customers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tiger vs. Cindy

My husband and daughter are really into golf and over the past year, I myself have become a pretty big fan. As I was watching a tournament on my ONE "off day" in the month of March with Lefty a few weekends ago and I started thinking about some things. I began to relay the actions of certain golfers to the hospitality industry.

I will tell you this: I am not a fan of Tiger Woods, for numerous reasons (email me if you want to know why) and I started watching his swagger. That swagger that has recently started coming back now that his melancholy, "I'm Sorry" stunt is over. Before Tiger got caught, he was on the top of his game, living the life. Yet, not a gentleman on the course or off the course and became too big for his britches. He never appreciated one fan, signed an autograph, smiled for a picture with a 7 year old aspiring golfer. Tiger began to falter on the basics in life - having that integrity and demeanor of a true athlete. Spitting on the course, swearing when hits a bad shot on live TV, throwing clubs, or having his caddie, "Stevie" call a class act golfer like Phil Mickelson, some obscene names is not going to get you very far and for the remainder of 2010 and now into 2011, he is winless and it will stay that way. Karma is a funny thing.

I began to think that Tiger is like one of those sales people that makes their sales goal one time and thinks they're senior. Or that speaker that gives one speech and gets a standing ovation and thinks, "That's it, I've made it - I am the best." Every single time I go on stage I am nervous, but humble and sincere enough to say my piece and move on to the next one. You are never bigger than you think you are. Remember that - and call Tiger and let him know too.