Interview By: Joanie Ogg, Editor and Co-Founder of Travel Professional NEWS
Interviewing: Joel Cohen, Vice President, NYCVP
First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with us!
Can you share with us the history behind the company?
Well, there’s a long backstory, perhaps even going to prehistoric days, but I’ll try to be brief. Barry Tenenbaum, currently the President of NYCVP, and I ran a very successful tour company in the 1980s and 90s. In 1997 we both left that organization. We teamed up again later that year when Barry foresaw New York City as an emerging vacation destination – and one that was totally underserving the travel agent community.
We formed New York City Vacation Packages and developed relationships with hotels, major attractions like the Empire State Building Observatory and the American Museum of Natural History, with Broadway box offices and legitimate ticket brokers, with transportation companies – and by 1998 we started marketing the products to travel agencies in the US and Canada. Business grew quickly as we developed the technology and service orientation that we ultimately became known for.
Of course September 11, 2001 changed the world and halted our progress. We struggled for a few days making sure all of our clients could get home. When that was accomplished we worked closely with the New York City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, now NYC & Company, and other partners to develop and market low-priced vacation packages to entice folks to come to the City. Within a few weeks we were as busy as we were prior to the tragedy, and our business continued to grow.
One outcome of the tragic event was that our clients were asking us how they could pay their respects at the site of the former Twin Towers. So in March of 2002 we began operating a free sightseeing/walking tour to Lower Manhattan for our guests. We hired a professional tour guide and he took folks downtown, not only touring the site of the tragedy, but also visiting Wall Street, Battery Park, and all the famous sites in the Financial District. By the way, that tour still operates today, 15 years later!
Over the next several years we developed more unique products and events centered around New York City holiday experiences, like a 4th of July picnic and fireworks cruise, breakfast parties to view the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a cocktail party in the heart of Rockefeller Center as the Christmas Tree is lit, and an indoor New Year’s Eve Party in Times Square to watch the Ball Drop.
Can you share a bit of history about your industry experience and your role at NYCVP?
I’ve actually worked with Barry Tenenbaum for 40 years now. He was president of a chain of travel agencies in the 1970s and convinced me to work for him as a travel agent. I spent 7 years in various positions in retail travel before he and I started our first tour company focusing on Orlando. The company grew quickly as we added more destinations in North America and the Caribbean.
As I mentioned, we left that company in 1997 and started NYCVP. I’m currently the Vice President, overseeing the Sales, Marketing, Reservations, Group Department, Operations and Technology areas.
While I know NYCVP has a terrific travel agent following, can you give us a brief look into your brand and business for those that may not be as familiar with it?
I’m proud to say we are the only major independent tour company in the USA marketing New York City as a vacation destination. We can do things for travel professionals and for their clients that no one, not even the OTAs, can do.
We have a select number of hotels, most of them in Midtown Manhattan, that have been chosen because they are tourist-friendly, well-priced and in a good location. What’s more, we give all travelers free admission to top New York City sites and attractions on every hotel-inclusive booking.
We offer tickets to every Broadway show, even supposedly “sold out” shows like Hamilton and Hello Dolly. We have a dedicated Group Department that can customize a departure for any group’s needs, whether they’re student trips, family reunions or corporate incentives. And of course, we have those fabulous “Bucket List” experiences like our 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Tree Lighting and New Year’s Eve events. Most importantly, everything we provide is commissionable! Everything.
What do you feel sets NYCVP apart from other tour companies offering similar services?
Because we have both an FIT Department (individual travel) and Group Department, we can meet the needs of any type of leisure travel that agents require. Couple that with the fact that we only sell one destination, we are truly more knowledgeable and experienced in New York City travel than anyone else.
All of us at NYCVP are excited for 2018 because we are going to unveil new technology that will allow us to provide even better service to travel professionals. Stay tuned for details!
What is the basic commission available to agents and are there any other booking incentives offered?
We pay 10% commission on hotel, sightseeing, dining and ground transportation components (5% on air and rail, 10% of face value on theater, concert and sporting event tickets). We are very happy to discuss overrides with volume agencies, as well as with consortia and host agencies.
Do you offer any training or education to Travel Professionals that are looking to begin a relationship working with NYCVP?
We do frequent webinars, which I feel are among the best introductions to NYCVP. Even if we don’t have a webinar scheduled in the near future we can provide a link to a recording of a recent one. We also attend travel industry conferences and trade shows – and at many of them we conduct trainings and seminars. Our brochures – yes, we still print them! – are available simply by asking.
How does a Travel Professional get started with NYCVP?
Call us! We love to talk to you. Or visit our website at nyctrip.com and click on the TRAVEL AGENTS ENTER HERE button on the top right and register online. Either way, you’re on the road to booking your clients on the best New York City vacation on the market, and making yourself a nice commission too.
We can’t thank you enough for your time, expertise and information about NYCVP!
Do you have any last words you may like to share with the readers of Travel Professional NEWS?
Our goal is to make a somewhat difficult destination easy for travel professional to sell. One call, or one visit to our website, and everything can be taken care of. It’s easy and profitable. What more can I say?