How to Keep on Top of Never-Ending Education and Apps

Remember when you could count on one hand how many mobile travel apps there were in the industry? Of course you can. It was only a few years ago. But now there are countless numbers of apps being offered by everyone from fellow agents to wholesalers to suppliers to tourism boards. In addition to mobile apps, other travel-related technology keeps rolling out year after year from hotels offering check-in and check-out services on a tablet to digital bracelets that can record a hotel guest’s spending.

“Just like in 2014, technology is going to become more and more important in the travel industry,” says Andrey Zakharenko, owner and founder of Russian Connections, based in San Francisco, CA. “At year’s end, Google and Amazon are close to entering the travel industry, and countless apps are attempting to do more and more for the traveler.”

And once you get the technology thing down, you also have to stay educated on the very thing you sell: the world. “More and more, we will have to be educators on world geography and world events,” says Zakharenko. “In 2014, we had the threat of Ebola taking over the news and creating panic in the nation. Many did not want to travel for fear of catching Ebola. On the political front, we had unstable environments in Mexico [Acapulco], Thailand [Bangkok] and in response to the situation going on in Ukraine, many avoided traveling to Ukraine and canceled their trips to Russia in protest. These are just some of the events that the media jumped. All of these stories lead to many people being scared of traveling abroad. I hope that 2015 will be a more stable year, but we have to be ready to adapt to the changes that will come in 2015.”

The Solution: Learn only what you need to know, but make sure you are learning from the right source.  Click here to read the entire article.

Author: Jenna Tesse Fox.  Article Source

Administration Issues New Regulations on Cuba Travel

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) commends the Obama Administration for taking another giant step toward allowing Americans to travel freely to Cuba. In regulations issued today by the Commerce and Treasury departments, travel agents will be legally unencumbered from selling authorized travel services to Cuba, effective upon publication in the Federal Register, expected tomorrow.

“It is a long-standing policy at ASTA that travel freedoms should not be used as a pawn in matters of foreign policy,” said President and CEO Zane Kerby. “On behalf of our U.S.-based members, we have conveyed this sentiment to the President and current and former administration officials over the past several years, and we applaud their efforts to break down these barriers once and for all.”

Earlier this month ASTA sent a letter to Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary in Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, requesting that those Americans who currently qualify for travel under the 12 existing categories allowed by current law, be allowed to do so through a travel agent without the agent needing to have a specific license. Under the new regulations, which build on the President’s Dec. 17 announcement that would expand travel to Cuba, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is amending section 515.572 to permit travel agents and airlines to provide “authorized” travel services without the need for a specific license from OFAC. Agents must, however, receive confirmation from the client that the travel is authorized, and that certification and other information must be retained on file by the travel agent for five years.

For other questions related to travel to Cuba, OFAC has provided this list of frequently asked questions. For more about this and other ASTA advocacy initiatives, visit ASTA.org/Advocacy.

YPS Members Sara Butruff, Justin Dolan, and Kayla Zeigler make Travel Agent’s “Top 25 All Stars of 2014″ list

With our all-new Top 25 All Stars, Travel Agent magazine has designed a program to recognize those travel advisors who have been the mainstays of our industry for more than a decade. The elite All Stars you see on the following pages have served as travel consultants for at least 10 years and can boast at least $1 million in annual sales. In some cases, they’re producing three or four times that volume, but their one common link is they have been working collaboratively with suppliers for years to diligently delight their clients with one marvelous itinerary after another. Making this list even more special is that the majority of All Stars on these pages were nominated by their agency managers, who singled them out for their productivity, attention to detail, ability to problem-solve and to think out of the box to craft unique vacations. In some cases, advisors who work independently made a case in nominating themselves; their presence on this list was supported by consortia or managers who could verify their skills and annual sales volume. The editors of Travel Agent then culled through the entire list of nominees to select the best of the group. It wasn’t an easy task, but we narrowed it down and here they are—Travel Agent’s 2014 “Top 25 All-Stars.”

Author: Michelle Smith Article Source

Still Adjusting to Millenials? Well, Get Ready for Generation Z!

As the Millennials prepare to dominate the workforce, employers are looking at the next wave of employees – Generation Z.

Born after 1994 (although some researchers utilize slightly different dates), Gen Zs are different from their predecessors in a number of ways.

While the Millennials grew up with the World Wide Web, Gen Z grew up with social media and smart phones. However, Gen Zs are discriminating users of social media and favor more visually engaging platforms that accommodate their eight-second attention span.

Prudent and pragmatic

A new global study, Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations, co-produced by Millennial Branding and Randstad, shows a generation more rooted in prudent and pragmatic notions about how work gets done and what’s needed to succeed than its predecessors.

“Gen Zs have a clear advantage over Millennials because they appear to be more realistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. “Also, Gen Zs have seen how much their parents have struggled in the recession, so they come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

The mind-set of Gen Z was shaped by nearly a decade of war and economic uncertainty, and they graduated from high school just as the economy was on the verge of collapse. Now, they’re entering the workforce amidst constrained resources, increased requirements placed on workers, fewer promised rewards and an overall climate of lower expectations for nearly everyone.

What the Gen Z study shows

Key takeaways from the study show Gen Zs:

  •     Have even more of an entrepreneurial spirit than Millennials and want to be hands-on with                 projects
  •     Are most motivated by opportunities for advancement, followed by more money and meaningful       work
  •     Are mature, self-directed, resourceful and dedicated to making a difference in the world
  •     Expect to switch employers several times in their careers, but less often than Millennials
  •     Have a preference for human connections and face-to-face communications
  •     Want to collaborate in a team, with managers listening to their ideas and valuing their opinions
  •     Find some technology distracting, but like to work with it to help them accomplish their goals
  •     Don’t especially like to multi-task or work in a fast-paced environment

Adjusting to a new generation

“They witnessed homes being foreclosed, so they’re going to be savers, realistic about how things get done and how hard they’re going to have to work to get them done,” says Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer, Randstad North America. “Which will make them more open to new ideas and ways of doing things” and even less inclined to adapt to a hierarchical environment than Millennials.

From day one, Gen Zs are bumping up against a crowded field of “career-delayed” Millennials and plenty of older workers who themselves have had career setbacks and are now competing with younger workers for entry-level jobs. However, as long as Gen Zs have the same chance to succeed as everyone else, all will be well with them.

Expect this population segment to gain a lot more attention as it becomes more influential, represents more revenue to brands, and more challenges – and opportunities – for employers.

This study provides an insightful picture of what employers can use to motivate, drive and inspire this new generation as part of their overall recruitment and retention strategy.

Author: Michelle Smith Article Source

ASTA Lays Out 2015 Advocacy Agenda, Highlights 2014 “Wins”

Alexandria, VA, January 8, 2015 – The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has set an aggressive agenda for 2015 in its mission to be the lead advocate for travel agents who, in turn, are the strongest allies of the traveling public. The agenda includes action at both the federal and state levels, continues work begun in 2014 and adds new initiatives that support free and unfettered world travel.

“ASTA is the only industry organization with the know-how, the staff, the resources and the alliances to effectively defend the interests of travel agencies across the country,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “This was reflected in our work in 2014, a banner year for ASTA advocacy that saw us leverage our unique strength as an association before the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies and all 50 state legislatures in the fight to keep the retail distribution channel strong and thriving for years to come.”

The Association’s advocacy priorities for 2015 include:

Ensuring Transparency in the Cost of Air Travel: ASTA will work to ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark rulemaking on airline ancillary fees provides agents and consumers full access to airline ancillary fees and the ability to purchase the complete air transportation product; and will fight airline efforts to insert the so-called Transparent Airfares Act overturning DOT’s full-fare advertising rule into “must-pass” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation in Congress.

Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Travel Agents: ASTA will fight against proposals in Congress and at the DOT that will require agents to make new and unwarranted disclosures to consumers during airline ticketing, such as one in a 2012 law requiring notification that the aircraft their client is flying on may be sprayed with insecticides.

Fighting Oppressive Taxation: ASTA will continue to oppose any state proposals to apply new taxes to agency fees and other income, including proposals to subject service industries such as travel agencies to state sales taxes, and to apply state and local hotel taxes to hotel “intermediaries” such as agents. At the same time, ASTA will work with its car rental partners to enact federal legislation to preempt state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on car rentals.

Cuba Travel: Building on the recent agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries – including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba – ASTA will work with President Obama, Administration officials and the U.S. Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government. While working toward a full repeal of the travel ban, the Association will petition the Administration to expressly permit any travel agent to book travel for Americans lawfully entitled to travel to Cuba under the new regulations called for by the President in late 2014.

Travel Facilitation: ASTA will support the expansion of “Trusted Traveler” aviation security programs, such as TSA’s PreCheck and CBP’s Global Entry, and will ensure that agents have a voice and active role in their implementation. On the international side, the Association will support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which will streamline visa processes for “inbound” travelers and help the U.S. recapture its historic share of worldwide overseas travel.

The highlights of ASTA’s advocacy work during 2014 include:

White House Meeting: In March, ASTA secured a first-ever meeting in the White House to brief President Obama’s advisors face to face on the value of the travel agency channel to both consumers and to the small business-driven national economy.

IATA NDC: The association worked collaboratively with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the DOT’s August approval of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative was subject to a number of consumer protection conditions designed to protect competition and consumer privacy. Going forward, ASTA will work to ensure that agents’ views and business needs are taken into account as NDC is further developed – as a member of several IATA advisory committees as well as a recently-announced initiative to develop understanding of the impact (e.g., from a business, technology and commercial perspective) of NDC for travel agents.

Hazmat Notification Regulations: ASTA was successful in its efforts to rework a burdensome DOT regulation that would have required agents to secure their client’s acknowledgement of complex federal hazardous materials restrictions before issuing an airline ticket. Instead, starting in 2016 the disclosure requirement can now be fulfilled any time prior to check-in, such as by automatically providing it on the passenger’s itinerary. This is a big win for agents, as the original requirements would have added to existing passenger notification requirements travel agents have to comply with regarding code-share flights, insecticide spraying and others issues. These requirements would have saddled the industry with more than $58 million in initial training and programming costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs.

Travel Insurance Reform: Working with a coalition led by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, ASTA and its members have helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 31 states. Members’ grassroots efforts – including committee testimony in Colorado (Rich Sattizahn), Hawaii (Rachel Shimamoto, Wendy Goodenow) and Maryland (Larry Swerdlin, Jay Ellenby) – were instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Once in place nationwide, these standards will save agencies thousands of dollars in annual licensing costs while reducing the risk of state fines for non-compliance. Counting only the 31 states that have adopted the standards, ASTA estimates the collective savings for the travel agency industry to be $7.5 million per year thanks to this reform.

15 Must-Have Marketing Toolks for 2015

The “if you build it, they will come” plan won’t get your business seen in 2015. The fact is, 50 percent of companies plan to increase marketing spend in 2015. So what will you do to get exposure and grow your business this year?

If you don’t have the budget to assemble a top-tier marketing team, you’ll need some great tools to take your marketing to the next level. To help you reach your marketing goals this year, I’ve put together a list of 15 must-have tools to get you started.
1. BuzzSumo

Fifty eight percent of business-to-business marketers will increase their content marketing budget in 2015. To ensure you’re spending your content-marketing dollars wisely, use BuzzSumo to research the content your audience really wants. Just enter any keyword or backlink into BuzzSumo and you’ll get a detailed report showing how well previous content on that topic performed.

Related: 7 Tools to Help Startups Dominate in Large Markets and Compete with the Giants
2. Mention

Want to keep track of what people are saying about you and your competitors? Mention helps you track key phrases and brand names, in real time, so you never miss out on a conversation with current and potential customers.
3. Autosend

If you want to personally reach out to each person that joins your website, you can with Autosend. Autosend helps you automatically send personalized, targeted email and text messages to every customer based on what they do on your website. So anytime a customer joins, makes a purchase or even looks at a particular FAQ question on your website, you can proactively send a personal message to them.
4. Ducksboard

Tracking how many people join your mailing list, subscribe to your service and buy your products each day can be exhausting — without the right tool. Stay on top of your most important analytics from every service you use in real time with an all-in-one dashboard such as Ducksboard.

Click here to read full article.
Author: Sujan Patel  Article Source

Impact of Mid-term Elections on Travel Agency Community

ASTA VP of Government Affairs Eben Peck has analyzed the impact on the travel agency community of a Republican-controlled Senate, and tighter control on the House of Representatives by Republicans, and sent his observations last week in a Member Alert.

The main take-away regarding ASTA’s legislative priorities and their chances under a new regime on Capitol Hill mainly comes down to this—yes, this is a significant change to the landscape, but not a radical one. And the implications are different issue-by-issue.

For example, bills ASTA opposes that would tighten regulations and impose more disclosure burdens on agents selling cruises are unlikely to advance in a Republican-controlled Congress, whereas there could be added pressure now to more heavily regulate businesses that employ Independent Contractors. See Eben’s full analysis in the Member Alert section on ASTA.org.

Happy Holidays!

Stat: More than 40% of Americans Leave a Weeks Worth of Vacation Unused

Diamond Resorts International, which is made up of 300 destination resorts, has launched a new campaign that encourages Americans to take vacations. Diamond conducted research and used a Nielsen study to determine that more than 40 percent of Americans have a week’s worth of unused vacation days by the end of the year.

The new campaign aims to educate workers and employers about the importance of taking regular vacations, which can fight off unhappiness and low productivity.

The campaign, Stay Vacationed, aims to help people think about vacations differently.

“The excitement we feel during the planning stages of a vacation, and the anticipation experienced while looking forward to the time away can be just as important mentally and physically as the actual vacation,” said Dr. Leigh Vinocur, an expert in the benefits of taking time off.  “Consider it a mental getaway, if you will.  The vacation, of course, is beneficial in many ways. Being unplugged, spending time with family, friends or just by yourself does wonders for the soul.”

Stay Vacationed encourages people to talk about and share vacation experiences to help keep the vacation “feeling” alive, even after it’s over.

The new campaign will begin to roll out over the coming year, and in the spring Diamond Resorts is planning a national summit to keep the conversation about the importance of vacations going.

Author: Newswire.  Article Source

5 Mobile Marketing Trends in 2015

It’s Unanimous – Content Marketing was the marketing buzzword phrase of 2014 and mobile content marketing will lead in 2015. According to the latest research from Content Marketing Institute, 77% of B2C and 86% of B2B organizations are using content marketing and 69% of B2C and 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago. Companies overwhelmingly made content marketing a priority in 2014 – and the research proves that content marketing isn’t going away any time soon.

With everyone doing it, how does a business stand out from the crowd? The key will be how effectively they plan their content marketing strategy in 2015. Over the past month, marketing experts have revealed the biggest marketing trends they expect to see in 2015, from digital, social media, and content marketing. Out of these predictions, the two biggest takeaways we found are:

Content marketing will continue to be a huge initiative in 2015, and

Marketers need to make mobile marketing a priority

As businesses focus on creating a more effective content plan for 2015, we believe that the most important part of this strategy will be how to optimize content marketing for the growing mobile world. We are eager see what mobile trends will emerge in 2015 and how marketing will continue to adapt and grow to take advantage of them.  Click here to read entire article.

Author: Dennis Kelly.  Article Source


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