Friday, September 12, 2014


Joy Karp believes customer service is more important to the success of a business than anything else. That’s especially true for travel agencies in the age of the Internet, she says.

In her book The Power of Service: Service Through the Eyes of Customers(2014), Karp offers what she calls a “new approach” to customer service, one that focuses on “authentic service that comes from the heart.” 

Authentic service is provided by staff whose employers recognize that “customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction go hand in hand,” according to Karp.

A businesswoman, author and educator, Karp created a hands-on business training program for McDonald’s, which changed the way the fast-food giant trains and promotes its staff worldwide.
Joy Karp
Travel Market Report spoke with Karp about authentic service and what it means to the travel agency business.

What’s your ‘new approach’ to customer service?
Karp: Customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction go together; they have to work hand in hand. Employers have to take an interest in their employees and care about them the same way they care about their customers. Involve employees, ask for their advice, provide incentives, treat them ethically.

Customer service is more important than anything else. It has to be established as the most critical factor in bringing back clients. Employers have to work with employees to create authentic service. That’s going to come from the top.

How do you define authenticity when it comes to customer service?
Karp: Authenticity comes from the heart. You believe that service really matters as opposed to memorizing this is what I’m supposed to say or do. 

What the customer really wants from service is to feel good. We all have triggers and a lot going on in our daily lives. If you can have a trigger of an experience that makes you feel good, you’ll want to replicate that experience.

The old service was to stand up there and be bubbly. I was so darn bubbly, I scared people! I was trying hard, but I wasn’t listening to people. I was so into staging that presence, that I wasn’t real.

Is every employee capable of providing to provide great customer service?
Karp: There’s no personality profile. Some people have surprised us. They are quiet, keep their heads down, show a lack of confidence; they don’t turn customers on or off. But in six months [of customer service training], their confidence is up and they provide great service. You have to teach what it means for customer service to come  from the heart.

Anyone who has a bad attitude, however, should be replaced or put in another position where he or she doesn’t deal with people. A bad attitude cannot be fixed. It’s as contagious as the plague. But outstanding service can also be contagious. It spreads from one employee to another.

What form should customer service provided by travel agents take?
Karp: Travel agents should make the customer feel that what they want is the most important thing in the world to you, their agent. And they want you to mean it. Also, travel these days is not as pleasant as it used to be. The job of the agent is to make the experience as good as the customer wants it to be.

Agents have special contacts. That’s nice, but that won’t bring customers back if [those products] are not what they wanted. You have to show customers you’ve turned over every stone to give them what they want. By doing the extra work, you’re building a relationship and you’re building loyalty. You become the go-to agency. That’s the key to repeat business.

How can agents build loyalty?
Karp: Build an emotional bond with the customer. That’s crucial. Learn as much as you can about that customer. Then they become your customer and your friend. Becoming involved like that used to be a no-no. But there’s nothing wrong with it.

What else can agents do to cement that bond with clients?
Karp:  Agents need to find their own brand of service, something special to them. It’s a personal thing, something that nobody else does.

It could be a personality trait -- for instance being very gracious in a particular way. Be known for something positive that touches people. 

You’ve said customer service was better 30 years ago. Why do you think so?
Karp: Thirty years ago when you went into a store, they knew your name and what you liked. They were automatically into building relationships. Back then there was no voicemail. People called and someone actually answered the phone. It was phone or mail, no computers. You were looked after by a real person.

People haven’t changed, just their lives have. I embrace technology but because of it we need more humanity in our service than ever. Instead of customer service, call it ‘customer happiness.’ That’s a little corny, but I like it.

We once again have to make service the No. 1 priority. It will benefit every aspect of a business in terms of morale, sales and profitability. Some industry is going to have to step up. Let the travel agency business be the one to set an example of what complete and authentic service is.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Many clients have asked us "what is 'resort casual' clothing?"

Here's another travel agent's thorough explanation:

Here is a suggestion of "Resort Casual" clothes from Sandals Resorts --  
Resort casual normally refers to polo style shirts, sundresses, linen pants, skorts, skirts, button up tops, nice shorts, and dresses. Nothing fancy, but not just t-shirts and jeans either. Do not wear
cutoffs and tank tops for sure!

2. Resort casual attire is exactly as it sounds - clothing you would be wearing at a resort. This clothing should usually include something such as a nice khaki pant or shorts with a crisp, clean top.

3. Women's Clothing
Women have several options when dressing to fit the resort casual dress code. A clean and pressed blouse can be paired with a nice pair of pants or a skirt. Neutrals such as black, gray, navy, brown and khaki are the most acceptable colors for pants. Skirts should be no higher than knee-length. Bold colors and prints are fine as long as they coordinate nicely with the rest of the ensemble. A casual dress or sundress is also a popular choice, as long as the dress is tasteful--not too short or low-cut.

Men's Clothing
Men should wear a clean and pressed button-down shirt or a nice polo shirt. Paired with khakis or other quality pants, this creates a classic resort casual look. Light- and bold-colored shirts are acceptable as are subtle patterns. Jackets and sport coats are not needed.

Invitations with the term "resort" indicate attire that is a cut above very casual clothes. So, avoid jeans, flip flops, camisoles, t-shirts, and short shorts or very short skirts.

Resort wear appropriate for men and women are "country club" type clothing. Since the invitation is for dinner, then evening resort attire for men would be nice slacks, polo shirts, button down shirts, nice shoes or sandals, with the option of wearing a sport coat. For women: nice pants, skorts, skirts, nice top, casual dress, sundress,
nice sandals or casual shoes. The length of the skirt or dress is knee length or longer.

Daytime resort attire includes the same clothing suggestions as evening resort plus nice shorts can be worn as well.

U.S. Passports & International Travel

Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning


The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to the complex security environment there and the potential for violence and renewed hostilities. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on July 21, 2014.  
The Department of State continues its longstanding strong warning to U.S. citizens against travel to the Gaza Strip; the U.S. government does not permit employees to conduct official or personal travel there. Please see the section below on the situation in the Gaza Strip.  Additionally, U.S government officials may only travel to designated parts of the West Bank for personal travel.  Please see the section below on the West Bank. 
During the recent conflict between Israel and terrorist organizations in Gaza, long-range rockets launched from Gaza reached many locations in Israel and the West Bank – including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other cities in the north and south. A ceasefire was announced on August 26 and, as of the date of this Travel Warning, is holding. The Government of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has successfully intercepted many rockets. However, in some cases missile impacts caused damage and injuries. U.S. citizen visitors to and U.S. citizen residents of Israel and the West Bank should familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter or other hardened site.  Consult municipality websites, such as those for Jerusalemand Tel Aviv, for lists of public bomb shelters and other emergency preparedness information. Visitors should seek information on shelters from hotel staff or building managers. We advise all U.S. citizens to follow the instructions of the Home Front Command on proper procedures in the event of rocket attacks or other crisis events.
Ben Gurion Airport is open and commercial flights are operating normally, although delays and cancellations can occur. Travelers should check with their airline prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. Other border crossings are generally operating as normal; however, travelers should check the status of crossings before embarking on trips. Seeinformation on the status of the airport and other crossings. 
U.S. citizens seeking to depart Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. U.S. government-facilitated evacuations occur only when no viable commercial alternatives exist. The lack of a valid U.S. passport may hinder U.S. citizens' ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General's ability to provide assistance. 
U.S. citizens who do travel to or remain in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza should take into consideration the rules governing travel by U.S. government employees: 
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to conduct official or personal travel to the Gaza Strip; 
  • U.S. government personnel are restricted from conducting personal travel to most parts of the West Bank (see below for details); travel for official business is done with special security arrangements coordinated by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem;
  • Because of the security situation, travel restrictions remain in effect for southern Israel, including Be’er Sheeva and areas south of Be’er Sheeva.  
  • All travel south of Ashdod remains prohibited for embassy employees and their families.
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel east of Route 90 without advance approval;
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel east of the Jordan River or east of Route 92 in the Golan area (although Route 92 itself is permitted if approved in advance);
  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use public buses anywhere in Israel or the West Bank due to past attacks on public transportation. 
View a map of the Golan area.
Major Metropolitan Areas in Israel
Personal safety conditions in major metropolitan areas, including Tel Aviv and Haifa and their surrounding regions, are comparable to or better than those in other major global cities. Please see below for specific information regarding Jerusalem. Visitors should observe appropriate personal security practices to reduce their vulnerability to crime, particularly late at night or in isolated or economically depressed areas, including in the countryside. Visitors are advised to avoid large gatherings or demonstrations and keep current with local news, which is available through numerous English language sources. 
The Government of Israel has had a long-standing policy of issuing gas masks to its citizens and, starting in 2010, it began issuing replacement masks. It stopped this distribution process in early 2014 in response to regional events. Visitors and foreign residents in Israel are not issued masks and must individually procure them, if desired. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General do not provide gas masks for persons who are not U.S. government employees or their dependents. For further emergency preparedness guidance, please visit the website of the Government of Israel'sHome Front Command, which provides information on how to choose a secure space in a home or apartment, as well as a list of the types of protective kits (gas masks) issued by the Government of Israel to its citizens. 
Gaza Vicinity
The Department of State recommends against travel to areas of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip.  Travelers should be aware of the risks presented by the potential for military conflict between Hamas and Israel. In July 2014, Israel conducted ground operations in Gaza. Travelers in the regions immediately bordering Gaza may encounter small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars launched from inside Gaza toward Israeli cities and towns. These attacks can come with little or no warning. Visitors to these areas should remain aware of their surroundings and of the location of bomb shelters and should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Home Front Command.   
Both Embassy and Consulate General personnel are currently not permitted to travel south of Ashdod, and travel to and south of Be’er Sheeva requires approval from the Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Visitors to these areas should remain aware of their surroundings and should take note of announcements and guidance provided by the Israeli Home Front Command.
Travelers should also be aware of the heightened state of alert maintained by Israeli authorities along Israel's border with Egypt. There have been cross-border incidents from Egypt, including rocket attacks and ground incursions, such as an attack that took place in August 2013 and one on January 20, 2014. Rockets were fired from Sinai in the direction of Eilat on July 15, 2014.   
Northern Israel 
Rocket attacks into Israel from Lebanon have occurred without warning along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Tensions have increased along portions of the Disengagement Zone with Syria in the Golan Heights as a result of the internal conflict occurring in Syria. Sporadic gunfire has occurred along the border region. There have been several incidents of mortar shells and light arms fire impacting on the Israeli-controlled side of the zone as a result of spillover from the fighting in Syria. Travelers should be aware that cross-border gunfire can occur without warning. Furthermore, there are active land mines in areas of the Golan Heights, so visitors should walk only on established roads or trails. The Syrian conflict is sporadic and unpredictable. U.S. government personnel who wish to travel east of Route 90 require advance approval. In addition, personal travel for U.S. government officials is not permitted east of the Jordan River or east of Route 92 in the Golan area, although Route 92 itself is permitted with advance approval.
U.S. citizens visiting and living in Jerusalem should be aware of the numerous political, cultural, and religious tensions that permeate the city. These sensitivities have the potential to fuel protest-related activities, clashes, and civil unrest. Protest activities have occurred within the Old City and areas around Salah Ed-Din Street, Damascus Gate, Silwan, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods. Recently, demonstrations and clashes have occurred in several East Jerusalem areas, such as Shufat, Beit Hanina, Mt. of Olives, As Suwaneh, Abu Deis, Silwan, Shuafat Refugee Camp, inside the Old City (near Lions Gate), Issawiyeh, and Tsur Baher. Such events have recently resulted in violence between protesters and Israeli National Police (INP). The intensity of these violent clashes appears to have diminished, although the possibility of renewed clashes remains, mainly during evening hours. The INP continues to deploy a heavy presence in many of the neighborhoods that have seen clashes and may restrict vehicular traffic to some of these neighborhoods without notice. The clashes and demonstrations have not been anti-American in nature to date, but U.S. citizens are advised not to enter any neighborhoods restricted by the INP and to avoid any locations with active clashes. Since June 2014, Jerusalem has seen a marked increase in random violent activities. These random acts of violence have not been anti-American in nature, yet underscore the sometimes volatile nature of the current local security environment.    
Travelers are reminded to exercise caution at Muslim religious sites on Fridays and on holy days, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. There has recently been an increased police presence near the Damascus Gate, particularly on Fridays. The INP often imposes restrictions on visitors to the Old City’s Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif. Travelers should be aware that the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is often closed without warning by the INP. Additionally, sporadic demonstrations can lead to violent clashes. U.S. government employees are prohibited from entering the Old City on Fridays during Ramadan due to congestion and security-related access restrictions.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid open air public parks after dark as they are poorly lit and policed. There have been numerous reports received of after dark criminal activity associated with these parks. 
While U.S. government employees are authorized to use the light rail system in Jerusalem, there has been an increase in individuals throwing stones at light rail trains, particularly near Shufat and along the northern end of the route. 
The West Bank
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to the West Bank. In June 2014, three Israeli teenagers, including a dual U.S. citizen, were kidnapped and murdered after attempting to hitchhike near Hebron. Demonstrations and violent incidents can occur without warning, and vehicles are regularly targeted by rocks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire on West Bank roads. U.S citizens have been killed in such attacks. There have also been an increasing number of violent incidents involving Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers in the corridor stretching from Ramallah to Nablus, including attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian villages in which U.S. citizens have suffered injury or property damage, and attacks by Palestinians on settlements. U.S. citizens can be caught in the middle of potentially dangerous situations, and some U.S. citizens involved in political demonstrations in the West Bank have sustained serious injuries. The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all demonstrations for their own safety. During periods of unrest, the Israeli Government may restrict access to the West Bank, and some areas may be placed under curfew. All persons in areas under curfew should remain indoors to avoid arrest or injury. Security conditions in the West Bank may hinder the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens. 
Personal travel in the West Bank by U.S. government personnel and their families is permitted to the towns of Bethlehem and Jericho and on Routes 1, 443, and 90. The Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem has recently seen an increase in public demonstrations, which have the potential to become violent. U.S. government officials may also engage in personal travel to Qumran off Route 90 by the Dead Sea and to the Allenby Bridge crossing to Jordan, as well as stops at roadside facilities along Routes 1 and 90. All other personal travel by U.S. government personnel in the West Bank is prohibited. U.S. government personnel routinely travel to the West Bank for official business, but do so with special security arrangements.
The Gaza Strip
The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization. U.S. citizens in Gaza are advised to depart immediately. The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. Exchanges of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and militant groups in Gaza take place regularly, and civilians have been caught in the crossfire in the past. Although the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt normally allows for some passenger travel, prior coordination with local authorities - which could take days or weeks to process - may be required, and crossing points may be closed for days or weeks. Travelers who enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing must also exit through the Rafah crossing, and those entering the Gaza Strip may not be able to depart at a time of their choosing. Many U.S. citizens have been unable to exit Gaza or faced lengthy delays in doing so. Furthermore, the schedule and requirements for exiting through the Rafah crossing are unpredictable and can involve significant expense. Because U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. government are not allowed to enter the Gaza Strip or have contact with Hamas, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens, including assistance departing Gaza, is extremely limited. The Consulate General and Embassy do not generally assist U.S. citizens to exit Gaza via the Erez crossing to Israel. U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Gaza cannot rely on the U.S. government to assist them in departing Gaza. 
Entry/Exit Difficulties
Some U.S. citizens holding Israeli nationality, possessing a Palestinian identity card, or who are of Arab or Muslim origin have experienced significant difficulties in entering or exiting Israel or the West Bank. U.S. citizens planning to travel to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza should consult the detailed information concerning entry and exit difficulties in the Country Specific Information.  
Contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy for information and assistance in Israel, the Golan Heights, and ports of entry at Ben Gurion Airport, Haifa Port, the northern (Jordan River/Sheikh Hussein) and southern (Arava) border crossings connecting Israel and Jordan, and the border crossings between Israel and Egypt. An embassy officer can be contacted at (972) (3) 519-7575 from Monday through Friday during working hours. The after-hours emergency number is (972) (3) 519-7551.
Contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem for information and assistance in Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan, at (972) (2) 630-4000 from Monday through Friday during working hours. The after-hours emergency number is (972) (2) 622-7250.
For More Information 
The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who live in or travel to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to obtain the most current information on travel and security within Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.  Enrollment in STEP makes it easier for the Embassy or Consulate General to contact U.S. citizens in case of emergency.  
For information on "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis," please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' Emergencies and Crisis link at
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website where theWorldwide Caution,  Country Specific Information for Israel, the West Bank and GazaTravel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found, including the current Travel Warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.  You can also follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and on Facebook.  Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://israel.usembassy.gov or on theEmbassy and Consulate General Facebook pages. 
Up-to-date information on travel and security in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside of the United States and Canada, on a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).