The American business community recently marked a milestone when IBM observed its 100th anniversary, an event that spawned an outpouring of commentaries about “the keys to success.” Analysts seem to agree that what makes Big Blue’s cen- tennial remarkable is not merely the company’s longevity, but its long history of being an industry leader in a field known for rapid and transformational change: informa- tion technology. There is no one key to that kind of success. It helps to have a great founder, good managers and access to capi-
tal, but it also helps, as the Economist put it, to build the
company “around an idea that transcends any particular
product or technology.”
IBM became legendary for its eponymous machines, for
mainframes, office equipment and the PC, but company
historians say that “we have never defined IBM by what we
make, no matter how successful the product or service.”
Progress, as IBM puts it in a centennial essay, is partly
about what you create but “it’s also about what you choose
to leave behind. Every institution, by its nature, favors the
ideas, products and services that made it successful. Lead-
ership often requires shedding emotional attachment to
A familiar trope at IBM is that a successful company has
to be willing to “change everything about itself.”
We bring this up because we suspect it sounds familiar
to travel agents who have survived the revolution in air
travel distribution and the evolution of the Internet, and
who are now adjusting to the rapid growth of social net-
working sites and mo-
Our annual Power
List, which accompa-nies this issue, might not contain any 100-year-old travel agencies. But we think it’s a safe bet that every company on it owes its success, in part, to adaptability, to
the willingness to abandon legacy practices and embrace
new products, new business models.
Anybody who, 25 years ago, saw themselves in the business of writing airline tickets is probably in the same place
as those who manufactured typewriters — which is to say,
we sure hope they’ve moved on.
The Princess mystery
In the cruise industry, one of the worst things you can say about a cruise line is that it’s acting like an airline. Cruise executives believe, correctly for the most part, that they easily outshine their airborne counterparts when it comes to customer service and transparency. Princess, however, has triggered a lot of industry head- scratching with its decision to drop Puerto Vallarta from three cruises this fall and winter, substituting calls at Cabo
San Lucas and Ensenada.
With a vague reference to “continued violence,” the line
cites matters of “safety and security,” but nobody seems to
know what they are.
No offense to Ensenada, but this is a significant itinerary change for passengers, and they deserve a better explanation than the “trust us, this is for your own good”
answer we’re accustomed to hearing at airports.
Mexico, too, deserves an explanation. Time and again
we have learned that what everybody needs in times like
these is access to facts. If Princess has some facts about
Puerto Vallarta that the rest of us have overlooked, it
should let us all in on the secret.
Turen’s Apple Store column made
agency ‘dust off our imaginations’
Thank you, Richard Turen, for the slap on the head. I took a road trip to the Apple Store, and I believe I get it [Reality Check: “Learning from the Apple Store,”
We are in a small city in central New Hampshire with
no other storefront agencies within 20 miles, and we’re
looking for a way to draw in more travelers. We all love
the business, but perhaps we’ve been feeling a bit beaten
up by our “partners in travel” and forgot why we became
travel agents so many years ago.
We are dusting off our imaginations and coming up
with new ideas, from sculptures of giraffes walking out of
the wall to running DVDs and the Travel Channel on our
big, flat-screen TV.
My big problem is figuring out how to design the store,
but I will get there.
Thanks again for reminding us that we really do have a
Penny Pitou Travel
In Apple Store column, a lesson
on ‘how a travel agent should be’
Itotally applaud Richard Turen’s column about the Ap- ple Store! I have a MacBook Pro myself, though it is not my first Mac.
At the agency I used to work for and where I was (
supposedly) trained, after about the first month, I quickly realized that the agents, as he so beautifully described, were
making fun of my energy and enthusiasm for sending my
clients on wonderful vacations.
I think the other agents were also a bit miffed when
my second clients started out in a minisuite on a Hawaii
cruise and, acting on my suggestion, chose to upgrade
to a penthouse. And then, three days before they were to
sail, they were upgraded by the cruise line to the Owner’s
Needless to say, I didn’t stay with that agency long. The
vibes from that office were awful, and I didn’t want to be
associated with them.
For me, being an independent agent is the only way to
go. I meet with my clients when it is convenient for both
of us. I get so excited I wish I was going with them, and
I know they can sense my excitement for them. I’m also
one of the first to welcome them home and can’t wait to
hear all about their trip. In fact, in the case of my Hawaii
clients, I actually went to the airport to greet them; they
still talk about that.
I just thought that’s how a travel agent should be, and I
will continue to “make travel fun” for my clients.
Susan “Smitty” Price, cruise specialist
Tzell/Your Travel Center independent contractor
A passion for travel motivates
helping a ‘lost-looking tourist’
What a great piece on the Apple Store and stepping out of the box. I chose my iPhone 4 totally because of the helpful [Apple Store] staff and the lessons and the joy that they
seemed to have working at Apple. Fixing my gadget and
showing me the way helped me make my decision, as well.
2 vendors who made a difference
restore a faith in ‘travel partners’
In my opinion, not enough praise is given to vendors who are truly our “travel partners,” companies with flexible and compassionate policies that demonstrate
their desire to care for and protect our clients. Two recent
situations encourage me to publicly thank two such travel
Last year, I booked a small group on a 2011 Rivers of
West Africa cruise, a new itinerary on the Gambia River
offered by Variety Cruises. Susan Nissim, a vice president
and my primary contact at Variety Cruises, was always accommodating as I booked, rearranged and adjusted my
group. And later when Variety Cruises discovered that its
prices were going to be lower than expected on this new
venture, it reduced the fare for all the previously booked
passengers. Finally, when one member of my group had
a last-minute medical emergency, Ms. Nissim went out of
her way to accommodate the guest.
The group returned with high praise for the entire trip,
the cruise, ship and crew.
Then, this spring, I had a small group booked with
AmPac Tours of Lynwood, Wash., for an FIT to Japan. Ten
days before the group was to depart the U.S., the earthquake and tsunami struck and the group decided to cancel.
Though they had no obligation to do so, AmPac went
into overtime to accommodate my clients, canceling all
the arrangements and securing refunds of payments previously designated as nonrefundable. Not only did the
company spend a considerable amount of time getting
this done, they did this all with no compensation for their
time and effort. They did, however, gain a considerable
amount of goodwill and appreciation.
I’m particularly impressed with these companies, and
I’m confident they have in mind the best interests of my
clients and myself. I’m very pleased that they’re my partners and am grateful to be able to do business with them.
Master travel planner
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