CruisePak v3.6 End Of Life Notification.

December 7, 2012 – 8:48 pm

Effective Jan 1st, 2013, CruisePak will no longer be accepting registrations from New Businesses. Existing businesses who use CruisePak can still download and install CruisePak v3.6 as necessary.

CruisePak v3.0 product line is designed and tested for Windows XP. This operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft. Effective 1 July 2013, CruisePak will no longer offer free technical support for any CruisePak v3.0 – v3.6 product. However, Extended, Paid technical support plans will be available for those users who continue to use the CruisePak v3.6 and below product lines.

There will be more on this issue in the near future.

www.duckduckgo.com – The Search Engine That Does Not Track What You Do Online!

August 25, 2012 – 6:29 pm

If you are worried about google, facebook, bing, yahoo, etc. all tracking what you search for, then www.duckduckgo.com might be just what you need. This search engine DOES NOT track your searches. It is completely anonymous.

Do you realize that everytime you search, your computer name, ip address, and sometimes even your email address is being sent by headers….along with your search term. Overtime, this information easily can be used to create an online profile about you (or your computer more appropriately) These profiles are then used to generate targeted advertising to you as part of search results.

And….Rumor has it that credit score companies are now using your online profile as a metric in determining your credit worthiness. Scary Stuff.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, as part of a credit application, you wll be asked to release internate usage information via your Internet Service Provider. From there, it’s cake to see what you’ve been doing, and what you’re interests are; especially if you have those search engine toolbars installed.

And just so you know, with regards to the anonymity of your name, well, that is easily obtained from your ISP. They have your IP address, the Port for every internet action you take. Combine that with the MAC address of your modem which is part of your billing information and voila, a full online profile is easily obtained.

If privacy as to what you do online is important, then give duckduckgo.com a try. I’ve used it quite a bit and it’s given me fantastic results.

Google Tests Showing Gmail Messages in Search Results

August 9, 2012 – 10:36 pm

If you use gmail…..or your ISP contracts their email handling out to google, you probably should read this.

From pcworld.com: A new Google search experiment lets Gmail users to see relevant e-mails alongside regular search results on Google.com. Dubbed “Gmail in personal search results,” the new service is available now in a field trial for users who sign up on Google’s Search Experiments website. Although Google says it won’t be able to accommodate everyone, I was able to sign up and activate the feature in just a few minutes.

Read The Rest Of The Article Here

Imagine, just one glitch and your whole company privacy available for all those to see…

Yahoo Voice Hack Leaks 453,000 Voice Passwords

July 12, 2012 – 9:43 am

From Information Week, A hacker or hacking group that bills itself as “DD3Ds Company” Thursday leaked what it said were plaintext passwords for 453,492 Yahoo accounts, as well as over 2,700 database table or column names, and 298 MySQL variables. DD3Ds said it obtained the data by executing a SQL injection attack against an unnamed Yahoo subdomain, which security experts have identified as being Yahoo Voice.

“We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call, and not as a threat,” read a note included in the password dump. “There have been many security holes exploited in webservers belonging to Yahoo! Inc. that have caused far greater damage than our disclosure. Please do not take them lightly. The subdomain and vulnerable parameters have not been posted to avoid further damage.”

Read The Rest Of The Article Here

Celebrity CEO Resigns…..Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmm.

July 11, 2012 – 12:49 pm

From TravelPulse.com: Daniel Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, is leaving the premium line at the end of July β€œto take an exciting new opportunity.”

Being a conspiracy theorist…..Did The Pro Agent Stance Do Him In?. I wonder.

Celebrity CEO Recalls Getting Questions At Recent Investment Conference About Why Cruise Lines Continue To Focus On A Commissoned Middleman

July 11, 2012 – 11:00 am

In the article “Cruise Execs Tout Agents’ Value During Travel Weekly Panel” located at travelweekly.com, Hanrahan, the president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, was a participant on the Presidents Panel at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld and Home Based Agent Show last month when he recalled that at a recent investors conference, he got a lot of questions about travel agents β€” mainly regarding why cruise lines continue to focus so much attention on a commissioned middleman.

“The answer is simple,” Hanrahan said. “Who wouldn’t want 100,000 people out there selling your product? And that is just North America. Why would you walk away from that? It is such a valuable proposition.”

Now that is a great answer from a CEO of a major cruise line and should give us all pause before we demonize them in our water cooler conversations. In addition, this first paragraph gives good insight into the balancing act the CEO must do to (a) satisfy investors/analysts (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc.) who unimaginitively only want to cut, cut, cut and (b) run a profitable business where one’s primary objective is to sell, sell, sell.

The age old battle is this:


Agent Distribution Of Travel Product
Pay Agent A 16% Commission
Take Advantage Of Personal Selling

VERSUS

Develop Computer Based Consumer Direct Booking Tools
(Pay Software Developers For Initial And Ongoing Maintenance)

Develop Mobile Direct Booking Tools
(Pay Software Developers For Initial And Ongoing Maintenance)

Advertise In Regional Markets via Print, Radio, Television, etc.
(Significant Ongoing Expense)


And Wall Street seems to be Hell Bent on the latter solution. They don’t see the imaginative ways travel professionals and agencies are selling product. They don’t seem to understand that the cost to sell a travel product is capped at a predetermined commission rate using an agent. The sale is always profitable in a commission based model.

In Wall Street’s desired business model, i.e. the consumer direct model, the costs are variable….and more often than not, not on the upside. Software engineering is expensive…hourly rates well exceed the commission paid on a single cabin. If engineering only had to be done once, they might have an argument, but trust me, the way technologoy moves, they can’t keep up and the expense keeps up along with it…..all with NO Guarantee of sale.

And lastly, PERSONAL SELLING IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE FORM OF ADVERTISING (Advertising 101). Wall Street’s desired model seems to want to ignore that. It absolutely befuddles me as to why anyone would want to disregard the effectiveness of personal selling. It is almost like a law of physics.

Bottom line is that we might want to start looking more closely at Wall Street. Let’s get the names of the analysts covering the sector, Let’s see who is putting pressure on the CEO’s. Let’s get their age. Let’s get their educational background. Let’s get their work experience.

Until something like this is undertaken, these shadows (analysts, investment banks) are going to continue to have a profoundly negative impact on the travel professional. It is now time to act.

Carnival Cruise Lines Is Now Officially “Out Of Bullets” …..

July 7, 2012 – 11:47 am

Carnival Cruise Lines is now officially out of bullets with regards to their attempt to shift a retail customers cruise purchase point to one of their direct (web, mobile, call) booking channels. Their latest modification to their Value-Add Booking Policy On Incentives Agencies Can Offer Their Clients is so strict that it only allows one to offer a $25.00 incentive in the form of an onboard credit (carnival still gets the $25.00 but it is usally paid from agent commission) or some other agency supplied trinket of equal or lesser value than the $25.00.

Now remember children, if you don’t observe Carnival’s Value Add Policy…or you don’t observe Carnival’s Online Advertising policies….or you don’t observe Carnival’s telling you what you can and can’t do with your private business earnings…..CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO SELL ANY OF THEIR PRODUCTS. And of course, agencies observe this policy because whether they like it or not, Carnival products comprise a significant portion of their revenue. Customers literally ask to purchase a Carnival Cruise.

What bothers me is this statement. “Carnival’s commitment to ensuring that all travel partners have the equal ability to sell the Carnival product at the same great rate”

If that were really true, Carnival would eliminate tiered commission rates, eliminate override checks (money received by the agency for meeting performance goals), and eliminate cooperative advertising payments to agencies that have a history of strong performance.

Now a level price across the market does allow agencies to equivalently compete for those increased commission rates, override checks, and cooperative advertising payments. However, if Carnival is already providing those incentive revenues to bigger agencies in your local market, the flat price really doesn’t matter to a smaller agency because no one knows the smaller agency exists. All they see is the bigger agency whose market visibility is being supplemented by Carnival.

This Last Modification To The Value Add policy is really a shot against the screen scraper rate combing websites (Kayak for example) and the behemoth online sites namely Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz. Those are the companies that can offer value added services like rebate checks, etc to retail consumers due to their size and public company status. The bottom line is that any revenue that goes through those sites either via their web presence or through their mobile purchase platforms is a hit against Carnival revenue because Carnival has to pay those sites commissions.

If Carnival wants to meet Wall Street’s marching orders because of this Carnival Posts Net Loss After Concordia Accident in Italy, then they have to increase book direct revenues. And this modification to the Value Add Policy takes a significant step towards that by further forcing the consumer to think about utilizing a Carnival book direct method because the “middle man” no longer can offer any significant cost savings.

The bottom line though is that Carnival is now out of bullets. The only thing left to do is to cut the cooperative advertising and override payments to the bigger agencies…and that would spell disaster for Carnival because they would then alienate the Omega World Travels and Avoya Travels of the world and thus all but shut off the most effective form of distribution that those agencies offer; personal selling.

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Discover America Campaign. One Word…..Forgettable.

July 6, 2012 – 12:36 pm

Brand USA, America’s travel promotion office has launched its first-ever campaign “Discover America” targeting overseas visitors.(Hat Tip ASTA Smartbrief) The Land of Dreams advertisement is shot against backdrop of majestic landscapes and attractive people having fun. Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny) and a multicultural assortment of musicians tell the world that, “It’s closer than it seems; come and find your land of dreams.”

The ad can be seen here on youtube.com

My personal opinion is that the ad is simply another misguided attempt that tries to swing for the fence and then so predictably, strikes out. i.e. Message Not Received.

Note to the 3 people reading this post. Please tell the powers that be over at Brand USA that everyone on the planet has a preconceived notion of America. I mean EVERYONE. The concept of America has long since been established in the minds of international citizens by our most visible export, the film industry. Combine that with an international citizen’s own personal experience and possibly that of their peers, one quickly comes to the realization that no 30 / 60 second broad based, mixed message ad is going to change anything at all.

If one analyzes the ad, one quickly recognizes that such a broad reaching ad containing random pictures of geographical landscapes, a blatant failed attempt to mimic the standard coke ad icon theme (“I’d like to teach the world to sing”), and a successful dissemination of a cliche rich garbled message that america has both a midwest flavor and a caribbean flavor (The sterotypical image of a gentleman playing checkers much akin to what one would find in a small town in Barbados and a pink cadillac cruising the streets of Miami) is going to do absolutely nothing to sway the minds of international travelers to spend their hard earned dollars in America versus say a Greece, Spain or Turkey.

Of course to put a nail in the coffin of the absurd, the whole ad is overlayed with Rosanne Cash singing Appalachain folk music. Aye Carumba.

If Brand USA wants to do something useful, they should spend 30 seconds highlighting St. Louis, spend 30 seconds highlighting Dallas/Fort Worth, spend 30 seconds highlighing Colorado, etc. And, have a call to action in the ads. In other words, tell the international community how to get started. Make the message simple.

In addition to the ad campaigns, have coordinated strategic sessions with travel professionals in each of the targeted areas thereby enabling travel deals to be closed quickly. It’s all about information, a call to action, and being “easy to do business with”. That is what Brand USA should always keep in mind.

For once we have the potential to help disadvantaged regions in the US by bringing travelers in form all areas of the world. There are stimulus dollars to be spent. Let’s not waste time with mixed, overly broad messages which don’t leave an impact on the minds of potential consumers. Otherwise, the messages become forgettable, just like the latest Ad from Brand USA.

The full article can be read at seekingalpha.com

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Twitter cuts off service to LinkedIn

July 3, 2012 – 9:32 am

(CBS News) Twitter, the micro-blogging site, has cut off tweets on the professional social network LinkedIn, ending a two-year partnership.

Twitter is a website that lets users broadcast 140-character status updates, or tweets, in real time. The micro-blogging service has had a partnership with LinkedIn since 2009.

“If you had previously synced your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, and selected the option to share Tweets on LinkedIn, those Tweets generated from Twitter will no longer appear on LinkedIn. There will be no other changes to your LinkedIn experience,” Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn head of content, said in a blog post.

Read The Rest Of The Article Here…

Commentary:

Social Media is a very important tool for Travel Professionals. After all, we are in the business of Customer Relationship Management. However, there is a war for the eyeballs going on here. You see, where you actually enter in your social messaging matters. Twitter wants you to enter in your tweets using their tools, Linked In wants you to enter messaging at their site. Facebook wants the same as well. None of them want to decrease incoming message flow because that would decrease usage statistics thereby killing evaluations.

However, the social media sites can stop functioning as a seamless pipe. ie, composing a post in facebook, getting it automatically sent to Twitter…and then twitter automatically distributing it out to Linked In, Tumblr, etc. In this case, Twitter does all the work…but’s get nothing in return. i.e. the message poster doesn’t see Twitter’s content.

In the above case, Facebook wins because the message composer see’s the Facebook Ads. Linked In and Tumblr win because the messages add content to their respective sites. However, Twitter just spends computer processing time routing the message out. i.e. every tweet distribution action costs them money.

The bottom line here is that if one wants interoperability between social media sites, each site is going to have to open negotiations with each other and pay a proverbial gateway fee. Until then, we’ll probably be experiencing blocks in one form of the other for the next 5 years or so. Putting it in Travel terms, think if Sabre talked to Amadeus and Travelpost seamlessly….It doesn’t happen in Travel and at the end of the process, I don’t believe it is going to happen with Social Media sites.

References:

Michael Sippey Blog Post, Twitter
Ryan Roslansky Blog Post, Linked In

U.S. regulators filed a complaint against Wyndham Worldwide Corp

July 2, 2012 – 8:58 am

(Reuters) – U.S. regulators filed a complaint against Wyndham Worldwide Corp and three subsidiaries on Tuesday, alleging that a failure by the hospitality company to safeguard consumers’ personal information led to more than $10 million lost to fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission said repeated failures to secure consumer data led to hundreds of thousands of consumers’ payment card information being exported to an Internet domain address registered in Russia.

Wyndham (WYN.N), which operates several hotel brands, including the value-oriented Days Inn and Super 8, is one of a large number of organizations that acknowledged in the past three years that they had been hacked by people seeking either financial gain or intellectual prop

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