Monday, October 25, 2021

We are still standing. Back in business after a crazy 2020

Today we sold a $2000 trip for a family traveling to Las Vegas over the holidays. After a year and half of very spotty sales, our phone has started to ring again.  This month the ARC, the behind the scenes folks who facilitate airline ticket sales for travel agents, reported that travel agency sales are up 175% from last year. 
People are traveling again.   
It is no secret that things went very south in March of 2020.  In fact backwards was the rule of things last year.  We refunded more sales than sold travel in 2020.
We survived the great pandemic. 
We know you are itching to visit friends, family, and discover new places and things.
We are here to help.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why we love Southwest Airlines.

The Consumerist blog has recently posted a report that Southwest Airlines has no plans to follow other airlines implementation of "no frills basic economy" fares.  Typical of Southwest's contrarian approach to the business, it wrote:

"Not that long ago, Southwest Airlines was considered a relatively no-frills airline, at least when compared to the other major carriers. Then all the competition started charging for checked bags, while Southwest says it’s given “no thought whatsoever” to the idea. The new trend among the big airlines is to offer “Basic Economy” fares that won’t even let you use the overhead storage bin, but Southwest says it won’t go this route either.

USA Today reports that Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told investors on Thursday that the airline won’t follow in rivals’ footsteps in the offering, as it would just cause confusion.

“There is a huge value in offering all of our customers – 100% of them – a great product,” Kelly said. “We like to say at Southwest, there is no second class.”

Currently, Southwest doesn’t section off parts of its plane for different fare classes like other airlines. Instead, customers can choose from different fare rates to board sooner, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll get more leg room or better access to overhead bins.

Under most Basic Economy fares, airlines — like American and United — offer passengers a less expensive ticket, that doesn’t come with an assigned seat or overhead bin space.
Such an offering at Southwest would likely cause confusion for customers.

“Any time we contemplate offering customers a choice, we debate that heavily because complexity drives confusion and it clouds the brand,” Kelly said, noting that the company’s policies of no checked bag fees and no change fees are what the company is known for."

Read more by clicking on this link. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Best summer family travel deals to snag now

From Fox

"Summer has arrived and schools will be closing their doors for the next three months. Have you made your summer travel plans yet? 

If not, it’s not too late to snag a great family travel deal and jet off to a well deserved family vacation.

All-inclusive resorts are a great choice for families traveling together.  The price is set in advance and there are no surprise charges when you check out.  Another plus are the many activities that can keep the kids busy, giving adults a chance to enjoy some free time throughout the day. "

Read more by clicking on this link.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why are airline fares going up while fuel prices are dropping?

Despite dropping fuel prices, airfares continue rise.  Something doesn't see right.  Airlines appear to have no incentive to lower fares.  Call it lack of competition perhaps.

From USA Today online:

U.S. airlines are saving tens of millions of dollars every week because of lower prices for jet fuel, their largest expense. So why don't they share some of the savings with passengers?
Simply put: Airlines have no compelling reason to offer any breaks. Planes are full. Investors want a payout. And new planes are on order.

In fact, fares are going higher. And those bag fees that airlines instituted in 2008 when fuel prices spiked aren't going away either.

In the 12 months ended in September, U.S. airlines saved $1.6 billion on jet fuel. That helped them post a 5.7% profit margin in the first three quarters of this year, robust for the industry but lagging behind the 10% average for the Standard & Poor's 500.

In the past six years, airlines have done a great job of adjusting the number of flights to fall just short of demand. As a result, those who want to fly will pay a premium to do so. Airlines are selling a record 85.1% of their domestic seats. Thanks to several mega-mergers, four big airlines control the vast majority of flights, leaving very little room for another airline to undercut fares.

Read more by clicking on this link.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The new travel world of extra fees land on hotels' doorsteps.

From Business Insider

Forget bad weather, traffic jams, and kids asking, "Are we there yet?" The real headache for many travelers is a quickly growing list of hotel surcharges, even for items they never use.

Guaranteeing two queen beds or one king bed will cost you, as will checking in early or checking out late. Don't need the in-room safe? You're most likely still paying. And the overpriced can of soda may be the least of your issues with the hotel minibar.

Vacationers are finding it harder to anticipate the true cost of their stay, especially because many of these charges vary from hotel to hotel, even within the same chain.

Coming out of the recession, the travel industry grew fee-happy. Car rental companies charged extra for services such as electronic toll collection devices and navigation systems. And airlines gained notoriety for adding fees for checking luggage, picking seats in advance, skipping lines at security, and boarding early. Hotel surcharges predate the recession, but recently properties have been catching up to the rest of the industry.

"The airlines have done a really nice job of making hotel fees and surcharges seem reasonable," says Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University's hospitality school.

Read more by clicking on this link. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Chasing comps part one

If you a regular casino visitor and gamble with a players card you know that comps are part of the system.  Lately though with the nationwide drop in overall casino revenue the bean counters have seemed to take control of the whole thing and we like many other regulars have seemed their comps fall dramatically. 

Boyd Casinos, who are currently embroiled in a sales tax issue with the the state of Nevada over comped meals, used to be known for its liberal comp policy.  Today things are much different.  We have seen offers dwindle and dwindle to nothing. 

No free play or five dollar in free play just doesn't hack it today Boyd.  Despite what your revenue management software tells you.  Sam Boyd must be turning in his grave.    But I digress.  

I ran across this posting in the Vegas Adventures concerning chasing comps:

complicating the Chasing Comps threads

I got into a discussion on Chasing Comps and wrote so much, I thought I'd save it here as my boilerplate for other such discussions.
One thing became crystal clear.  Most often the "Don't chase comps talk" really means : Don't "bet over your head" and many folks don't want to expand into the complexities of chasing comps at all. 
Here is the complete discussion:

Here are my comments:

Most of the examples here are of high rollers.
Those who might get stuck gambling more than they should, do need to take the advice, "Don't chase comps."

But it is more complex than that for the low rollers.
The simple rule "Don't chase comps" does what most simple rules do, errs because it ignores complexities

I basically spend my entire time in Vegas chasing comps and promos. The affect of comps on the mathematics of my EV is huge.

In fact, I won't play unless I am playing with comps or a promo included.

Jean Scott suggested that the only real way to see gambling as lucrative was to include the comps. We were not going to make money. At best we were going to get a free vacation. Well, that is pretty good.

I was just figuring out the expenses of my last trip to Vegas. It cost me $35 a day (air, room, food, transportation - everything except tips) because I used comps. To play local live poker costs me more whether it is in Vegas or here in Florida. Gas is the biggest expense. I don't have that in Vegas.
That trip I paid for my air fare.
Next trip it will be free, because I start chasing comps when I charge everything, every day, on my Southwest card. All my trips used to be free, but the new way of figuring free flights makes it easier to use some points for shorter flights. The kids end up getting that benefit when they come home to visit.
But I still get a share, even if my airfare comps need to be shared. So I gamble more than I would normally gamble to chase comps. I will run $1000 through the Main Street Station 10/7 DB VP once every trip because at the end of it I can get a free buffet (no points deducted) for that amount of play. I would not "normally" do that. I won't do it at all unless there is something to gain besides just the slight mathematical advantage for perfect play.
I'll gamble a couple $20 at the 9/6 JOB at the Boards Head bar because I can get a couple free Black Chip Porters that add to my EV. Once the comps are gone (two is enough for my pleasure) I'll stop gambling. If I can, I'll gamble first for the beer and then move to 10/7 to get the rest of the buffet credit.

Last trip I chased the newbie promo at the Cosmo. Played right this meant I was going to gamble in a loose manner in machines way over my normal gambling. My first $100 was going to rushed through a VP playing 15 rows at a time, full play on a quarter machine. I usually play one row. But that was what the promo ( a sort of comp) called for: Volatile play for the first $100, then the opposite if I lost. I never got to plan B because I stopped at $300. Nice. $200 profit in less than twenty minutes and still time to get to Sin City Comedy with a ticket from Groupon (anther sort of come on, like a comp)

I played at the poker tables that delivered the comp of free or reduced rate rooms and a weekly free play. I played longer at certain casinos (IP and Flamingo) because I wanted to get in my hours for the free play.
Yesterday at Tampa Hard rock was the last day to qualify for the free $150 gas card, a comp for players who played 20 hours from Sunday to Thursday. All night at my table in came players chasing their gas comps. Some were no limit players who came for the 2-4 limit just to chase that $150 gas card.
I did hear a guy in the bathroom complaining that he had qualified but lost $70 so now he had to get that money back before he would allow himself to go home. It seemed to me he was in some danger.

However, my mathematics is much different because the 10/7 DB is a game in my favor. I am expected if I am smart enough to grind the casino down rather than the reverse as is true in negative expectation games.
And the live poker can be a positive EV game. The casino there is just paid for the service. The opponents determine winning potential.

So the good advice for the negative expectation games is not good advice for the positive expectation games. I play way over my normal budget at the Four Queens 10/7 DB progressive because the mathematics are in my favor and they reward me with generous free play. I would not play as much otherwise. I chase those comps (free weekend night rooms and freeplay and free play)

We often think that the high rollers get the best comps.
Well, maybe that is true.
But the way I play MSS for two free beers, the value of the beer, figured into the money I put at risk, gives me a positive EV. If I were a high roller, the beer would be just pennies on the dollar.
It is the same with food comps.

I'll play the Golden Nugget poker late a night because I am chasing the $10 coupon for free breakfast the next morning. I start with an ACG coupon for $10 in free chips. If I am playing 2-4 limit, adding a value of $20 to my night of play is huge. If I were playing no limit, well.... twenty bucks is twenty bucks, but I had better not stay over the time I would normally leave tired or bored or uncomfortable just to get in my hours for that $10 promo.

So, in some cases "chasing comps" is the good advice. We can't get the best mathematical advantage in gambling without chasing comps. And if we can start the chasing by chasing positive expectation games, well that is the best advice. Grind the casino down whenever possible, whenever possible. Avoid letting the casino take advantage of you. That is the challenge.

More soon.