Why You Should Listen to Tor Hagen!

Uncategorized Aug 20, 2019

Torstein Hagen, founder, and chairman of Viking Cruises said in a recent interview about the success of his company, “We are focused clearly on what we are and the number of things we are not.”

As a travel professional, the message is clear. In order to stand out among the plethora of booking options, get clear on who you are and who you are not. Ask yourself, “What makes me special?” and “What do I want to be known for?”

These are powerful questions I often ask of my students and audiences. Usually, the response is an awkward silence.

If a company as large and complex as Viking Cruises knows exactly who they are, why is it so hard for retail travel professionals to gain this clarity?

I am an avid hiker. As anyone who has served in the infantry will tell you, the most important piece of hiking equipment is a good pair of boots.

I buy my boots from REI. I can get them cheaper online, but like others serious about the sport, I seek out Pete Smith,...

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Can You Master the Mindset of a US Navy SEAL?

Uncategorized Jul 25, 2019

Yes, you can! 

A few years back, the self-help book genre was dominated by athletes and coaches, today, former US Navy SEALs are currently the rage.  From Jocko Willink and David Goggins to retired Admiral William McRaven – their lessons of courage, leadership, and perseverance are real and truly inspiring.

While all include mission tales of their military exploits, to which we owe a debt of gratitude, they each have a common theme from their elite SEAL training that we can carry over into our own lives.

SEAL training is physically tough, but according to the authors, the mental challenge is much more demanding.  

David Goggins went from a 300-pound pest exterminator to the only person to complete training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller.  

Now an elite endurance athlete, he shares in his book, “Can’t Hurt Me” that when our mind tells us we are done, we have only tapped into about 40% of our...

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What Business Are You Really In?

Uncategorized Jul 10, 2019

Depends on who you ask.  Think about where you spend most of your time and money.  My bet is you spend a significant amount of effort figuring out how and where to market – not to mention how much it will cost.

In fact, most industry experts, coaches, and executives will be the first to say that you are in the marketing business.  Why else would virtually all of the industry learning and promotional programs be based on building out marketing plans and advertising budgets?

 I’ll tell you why.  Marketing is sexy.  How many television shows have been made about sales, not many?  But we all know about Don Draper and the hit series Mad Men.  What most people don’t realize is that marketing executives tend to be salaried employees – even those with your suppliers and consortia.

The answer is simple.  It doesn’t matter if you are a business owner, independent contractor, or employed as an agent or manager. ...

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How Paul Gauguin Cruises Changed My Mind About Tahiti Pt. 1

I don’t normally share my travels with you as this is a newsletter about the business of selling travel, but I would be doing you an injustice not sharing this experience.

I have been fortunate to visit many places, but never had the overwhelming desire to go to Tahiti.  So, when our good friend Sandy Stevens, vice president of sales for Paul Gauguin Cruises, invited my wife and me to join her and other travel advisers on a cruise this past January, I was less than enthusiastic at first.

Then I remembered that Tahiti receives roughly the same number of visitors in a year that Hawaii gets in a week! 

We flew into Papeete a few days early and took the 45 min ferry ride to Moorea.  We had booked the Intercontinental, however, there was a worker strike, so they moved us to the Sofitel at no extra cost.

Wow, what a first impression!  Moorea was beautiful, to say the least.  But even more so were the people.  They were the warmest, most generous people...

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What's Your Story?

Uncategorized Jun 05, 2019


The business world is not immune to fads, but there are a few that have stood the test of time. The principles in How to Win Friends and Influence People and Think and Grow Rich had been guiding businesspeople to success since the 1930s.

One recent “fad” is storytelling. The number of people who list “storyteller” as their occupation (I didn’t realize it existed outside the kids’ section in Barnes and Noble) on LinkedIn is incredible. Yet, everyone from StoryBrands Donald Miller, a former screenwriter, to the travel industry’s own Richard D ’Ambrosio are singing the virtues of applying the practice to your own business narrative.

Is it a fad? I don’t think so. According to Miller, business stories typically follow the same predictable framework as a successful screenplay. His Story Script, “A character has a problem and meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action that ends in success or helps to avoid...

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Who Are Your Role Models?

Uncategorized May 08, 2019

One of the more useful lessons I learned early on, is to emulate others. The Virtuoso owners who took this naïve young man under their wing to teach me the “business” of the travel business and later as an industry executive, I modeled those I knew to be good managers with a high level of trust and integrity.

Ray Dalio is someone worth emulating.  A self-made man with a net worth in excess of $16.8 billion, his life and work are governed by hundreds of “Principles” developed over the years and documented in the New York Times bestseller by the same name.  I chose three to highlight that can help you to find your own role models.

“If you can’t successfully do something, don’t think you can tell others how it should be done.”

This happens A LOT.  Several years ago, I was contacted by a new travel agent coach.  She was unfamiliar to me, so I questioned her motives.  She finally admitted to having been in the...

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Will the "Real" Travel Agent Please Stand Up!

Uncategorized May 01, 2019

Last week, someone posted in an online group that she only wanted to share ideas with those she considered to be “legitimate” travel agents.  She had particularly strong feelings about who was real and those who didn’t make the cut – especially those affiliated with network marketing companies.

I found this interesting because the group members (including her) tend to be independent, home-based cruise focused professionals.

I love this industry. There are as many ways to sell travel as there are people selling it. For most suppliers, the travel agency channel is just one of many they utilize to sell inventory. 

Independent travel professionals representing a number of business models are the lifeblood of the distribution system, so in light of this individual’s ignorance, a short history lesson is in order.

Today, a focus on cruising is widely accepted, but this was not always the case.  Cruise agents were excluded from joining industry...

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Are You The BETTER Choice?

Uncategorized Apr 24, 2019

Have you wondered why some advisers seem to be more successful than others?  They are on stage, year after year, receiving top sales awards, while you sit in the audience wishing it was you.  I know, I was once that person in the audience.

Many of us are good travel advisers, some are even great.  So why is it that those often achieving the greatest success are not the most experienced or most qualified?

They succeed, not because they are the best, but because they have positioned themselves to be a better choice. They communicate the benefits of using their services to prospects more effectively than their more qualified competitors.

I don’t know about you, but I have grown weary of trade publications constantly extolling the virtues of using the services of a professional travel adviser.  Not a week goes by that we are not reminding ourselves of this.  I read a recent trade article entitled, “Ten Reasons to Use a Travel Agent in...

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What's Your ONE Thing?

Uncategorized Mar 13, 2019
Photo credit:  Wesley Wiley

On the way home from a recent business trip, I had some time to kill between flights.  While wandering aimlessly through the Hudson Newsstand, a book caught my eye.  I had seen it many times before, but it never spoke to me until that moment.

It was Gary Keller’s (of Keller-Williams Realty fame), The ONE Thing.  It is how he discovered that when he narrowed his focus to one thing, it was often wildly successful when it varied- so did the results.  As a big-time advocate for emulating success, he had my attention.

The book asks a simple question, “What is The ONE thing you can do in your life and work, that by doing it would make everything else easier or unnecessary.” 

Wow! As an “army of one”, there are so many things to do each day, how do I choose just ONE?  Like a prospect given too many choices, my mind went blank. 

He adds, “It’s not that we have too...

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Take Control of Your Sales!

Uncategorized Mar 06, 2019

I often discuss the importance of “control.” Without it, your life, your work, is being dictated by someone else.  Unfortunately, this is how most people operate.  Let’s face it, there are a number of things outside of your control, things you can’t do anything about, so stop worrying about them. 

You can’t control your competitors. You can’t control trade with China.  That doesn’t mean not being cognizant of them.  It does mean being laser-focused on two things that are 100% within your control. 

  1. You control what you sell.

Let’s be honest, almost every supplier, is a preferred supplier with a consortium or host agency.  But that doesn’t mean every preferred - is preferred with you.  You should limit what you sell and choose your own from within their list.  This is who you are committed to selling first.  It may be because of your experience with the product, higher...

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