Agencies See Stronger Profits in 2011, 2012
by Maria Lenhart /

Revenues Are Up, Say ASTA Members
Travel agents expect to see their profits back on par with 2008 levels, according to a recent ASTA member survey. Asked to compare the first half of 2011 to the same period in 2010, most said their 2011 performance was the same or better – in terms of revenue (73%), transactions (72%) and client lists (75%). About a quarter saw a decrease in these areas, a marked improvement over 2010, when one-third reported a decline. (In 2009, 80% of agencies reported a decrease in performance.) Looking at sales by segment, agencies reported stronger increased sales for the tour (32%), cruise (47%), hotel (46%) and travel insurance (49%) segments compared to 2010. But sales of both air and car rentals were down for most, agents said.

Agent to Agent: Get Proactive to Promote Cruise Value
“Agents should be actively promoting the value of cruises right now,” Henry Wiseberg, CTM, president of Talk of the Town Travel, told Travel Market Report. “A lot of consumers don’t look at cruises far down the road – they only look at prime times like holidays, when the values are not so great. We’re being very proactive in promoting cruise values through our website, by getting out emails to our mailing list. Every time we answer the phone, we emphasize our cruise center and the good short-term deals out there.” He added that clients are more likely to book a cruise if they can pay for it in increments rather than all at once.

How to Make Better Use of Your Brain
Noting today’s constant barrage of digital information and the ever-growing need to accomplish more with less, business and media consultant Joann Cantor outlined ways of “making better use of your brain for work.” Among her tips: (1) when leaving a meeting, take time to mull over what you’ve learned rather than immediately checking messages; (2) when stuck on a project due to brain overload or mental exhaustion, take a walk or other type of break that doesn’t involve more information; (3) when confronting an unexpected delay, don’t retreat to the smartphone, but use the time to observe what people around you are doing – you might learn something useful. Source: “Your Mind on Media” newsletter

Digital-Savvy Millennials Have Ambitious Travel Goals
Millennials, defined as people aged 16 to 35, have more ambitious travel goals than older adults. They also are far more likely to make purchase decisions based on digital marketing and recommendations from friends. According to a recent survey: 70% of Millennials wish to visit every continent during their lifetime, while fewer than half of older adults share that goal. Also, 70% of Millennials said they were heavily influenced by friends about where to shop, eat and play, compared to 48% of older adults. Over twice as many Millennials (50% versus 21%) said they use a mobile device to research purchases; and 52% like to check out brands on social media sites, versus 36% of older adults. Source: “American Millennials” study by Barkley, Service Management Group and Boston Consulting Group

Economic Concerns Drive Short-Term, Cash-Only Bookings
“Bookings are short-term on all travel right now, 60 to 90 days out at most. We’re not seeing people planning for next August,” Paul Seiferth, owner of Terra Travel, told Travel Market Report. Another trend he’s seeing: fewer consumers are using credit cards these days. “They are looking instead at what cash they have and saying ‘We have a few bucks on hand, so let’s take a trip.’ The economy and the uncertain job market are causing more people to think in the short term.”

Postal Service Promotion Offers Discounts on Direct Mail
The proposed rescue plan for the U.S. Postal Service includes a scheme to encourage more small businesses to send bulk marketing promotions through standard mail. For example, during July and August, businesses using a special code for smartphones printed on their physical mailings could get a 3% postage discount on those mailings. The Postal Service realizes that digital marketing isn't going away, so it is looking for ways that small businesses can piggyback their cyber- and real-world lead-generation efforts. How effective is direct mail? According to figures from the Direct Marketing Association, only 1.4% of households took action as a result of a mailing. But that's better than the response rate for email, which was less than 1% (about 0.62%) in 2010, according to DMA. – Source:

More U.S. Workers Are Unhappy
Nearly a third (32%) of U.S. workers are seriously looking at leaving their organizations, up sharply from 23% in 2005, according to a What’s Working survey from Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. An additional 21% are not planning to leave their jobs but view their employers unfavorably, the survey found. Also: only 43% believe they are doing enough to prepare for retirement and just 41% believe their employers are doing enough to help them prepare. Less than half (42%) of workers believe that promotions go to the most qualified employees. “Employees see a ‘disconnect’ between what employers are promising and what they are delivering,” commented Mercer senior partner Mindy Fox.

Companies Taking Broader View of Sustainability Benefits
Companies are increasing integrating sustainable practices into their business operations for reasons other than improving their reputations, according to McKinsey’s sixth annual survey on corporate sustainability practices. The share of respondents who said their companies’ top reasons for addressing sustainability include improving operational efficiency and lowering costs jumped 14 percentage points since last year, to 33%. This concern for costs replaces corporate reputation as the most frequently chosen reason, which, at 32% , is the second most cited reason. It’s followed by alignment with the company’s business goals, mission, or values  (31%) and new growth opportunities (27%), which climbed 10 percentage points since last year.