Coming up I hope :)

I have requested two interviews.

1. Eviction Lab, want to know what is happening with evictions in the USA. Check this site out https://evictionlab.org it's not pretty but it's important to talk about. So i have emailed and asked them for some insights.

2. I also contacted a site that does specialty tea sets. I hope to have someone from the site based in the UK contact me soon for an inerview.

3. I have also sent a request to two more people one expert on heat waves and a company that provides expert witnesses for trials.

C. T.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sal Dickinson Explains How You Can Get A Real Deal On Vacations In Florida

I have had the pleasure of visiting Florida, I went to Miami for a week and it was toasty warm and cool at night. The hotel I stayed at was nice and my room had a great view of the Atlantic. I went as part of a team to do a trade show so I in effect got a free vacation, with a little work tossed in for good measure

I'd go back in a minute but, trips like that one don't come about to often and vacations can be expensive. One company offers a unique opportunity for travel minded individuals who want to visit Florida without having to smash a lot of piggy banks to do it.

Who and are they and how do they do it? Ah, glad you asked. The company is Vacations Auctions Inc. and the how is via www.floridavacationauction.com. I am happy to say I reached the founder and CEO Sal Dickinson. I am sure a lot of vacationers are looking forward to finding out more about how they can visit Florida for fraction of the cost. Welcome to Candid Conversations.

Sal Dickinson: Thank you Cliff. It’s a pleasure to be part of Candid Conversations. Thanks for having me.

Cliff T.: Off the bat I have to say this is one of the more unique ideas I have come across online. An auction for trips to a particular place in this case Florida. How did you come up with this concept?

Sal Dickinson: Back in the mid 1990s I was the marketing and sales executive of a large, resort company and we were one of the early adopters of the internet. Given it was new to business back then, I was reading as much as I could on internet marketing and learned of an auction held by Cathay Pacific, an Asian airline. It intrigued me and I thought there was application for like auctions domestically, particularly in the leisure market. I started collecting domains and 15-plus years later I left the corporate world to start my own business and launched FloridaVacationAuction.com 

Cliff T.: What kinds of vacations can a person bid on?   

Sal Dickinson: Our site offers a wide variety of accommodations and attractions or experiences from the panhandle of Florida all the way down to the Keys. You can bid on 3-nights at a luxurious 4 Diamond, beachfront resort like the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, including a $100 resort credit, or on 2-nights on a number of quiet romantic Bed & Breakfast Inns we have throughout Florida. Attractions and experiences range from a number of dolphin experiences such as the Dolphin Harbor at Miami Seaquarium to Indoor Skydiving at iFly Orlando to admission for four to the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. There’s something for everyone.

Cliff T.: To bid on an auction does one have to sign up and is there a fee to be a member of the site and if there is a fee how much is it?

Sal Dickinson: There is no fee to be a member of our site but you do need to sign up in order to place a bid. You can still shop all of the offers and take advantage of the buy direct option from any of our hotels or attractions without ever having to sign up. Folks can also sign up for our newsletter without signing up to bid. And once a person wins an auction, their winning bid is all they will be charged – bids are tax inclusive and we have zero add-on fees or service charges. 

Cliff T.: Sal how long does the auction last for and is there a starting bid? 

Sal Dickinson: Auctions last for one week, starting and concluding at 10 pm EST on Sundays. Starting bids begin at 20% of retail value, so as an example, 2-nights at Hawks Cay in the Florida Keys opens with a beginning bid of only $150. Bids follow in increments of $5.

Cliff T.: One of things one must probably note is that the auction is for the vacation or vacation spot, not things like flight and car rentals. Besides that is there any other ting or things that are not included?

Sal Dicinson: Each of our auctions are essentially advertisements that also promote buy direct specials, most at savings of 20-30%. Some offers and auctions have incremental fees such as a resort fee or cleaning fee at our vacation homes, and auction redemption can be blacked-out or exclude holidays but, each of those exclusions are clearly identified in each offer.

Cliff T.: Are there any spots in Florida that are big draws for people or do you find that the various parts of Florida fair equally in an auction?

Sal Dickinson: The Orlando/Central Florida market is always popular, as are the Florida Keys. We also see a lot of interest in all of our beach destinations, from Sanibel Island to St. Pete to Palm Beach and north to St. Augustine. And surprisingly our inland cities offers such as Gainesville and Tallahassee also move well each auction cycle. People like to have different leisure experiences, especially at great savings and that is something folks can regularly find on our site.

Cliff T.: I am assuming that the goal for floridaVacationauction.com is to increase the profile of Florida, that said Sal are you finding that there has been an increase in interest with regard to vacationing in Florida?

Sal Dickinson: Absolutely. We are the official auction partner of VISIT FLORIDA, the State’s official tourism organization and visitation to Florida has materially grown. Our own site has experienced consistent growth year over year since our inception, with users from 140 countries, but I want to note Floridians are one of our largest markets as they know Florida and understand the value they can get on hotels and attractions on our site. 

Cliff T.: On the other side of this of course are those looking to get people to visit their vacation spot. Sal, I bet this must be somewhat of a challenging sell, given that you asking a client to let people bid on a vacation package or location at below what they normally charge I am assuming you put the concept of an auction as a way to promote the business would that be an accurate way of looking at it?

Sal Dickinson: Spot on Cliff! As I mentioned before, our auction site is an advertising promotional site where hotels and attractions promote their business and their buy direct offers. Each auction, which repeats every 4 weeks, is only for one voucher, not dozens, so the consumer exposure is high for the business with minimal downside.

Cliff T.: Besides repeat bidders are you also getting repeat clients offering spots and vacation packages?

Sal Dickinson: We have a lot of repeat or long term businesses promoting their offers on our site. The Miami Sequarium for example, has been with us for more than five years and has three different offers/auctions with us. On the bidders side, we have more than 200 repeat bidders that have won 20 or more auctions. Our intent was to create the proverbial win-win and given the level of engagement of repeats both from consumers and tourism businesses, I’d say we’ve achieved that.

Cliff T.: This is a very unique way to offer vacationers a way to find a great vacation spot or package. Are you planning or currently setting up site for other states or even other countries?

Sale Dickinson: Expansion into other markets, domestically and eventually internationally, has always been part of our plan. We’re currently in final stages of dialogue with two other states, one in the South and the other in the Northeast, that will hopefully go live before the end of this year.

Cliff T.: Before I forget, how do you ensure that people pay for the package or the location they are going to? 

Sal Dickinson: If you are the winning bidder on an auction, your credit card is charged that winning bid and you receive a confirming email with a link to your voucher within 5 hours of that auction’s conclusion. You can also sign into your account to access that voucher as well. 

Cliff T.: There are some things I have not covered here, if people want more info is there a way they can get in touch with someone, or is there an FAQ section on the site where questions can be answered and do you also offer a forum for people to communicate with you and or each other?

Sal Dickinson: Instead of a FAQ we have a How It Works page in the main navigation of our site, as well as a live chat function that if not staffed, users can leave a message, as well as a Contact Us form that will promptly be responded to. They can also email customerservice@floridavacationauction.com

Cliff T.: Nobody wants to or expects to have a bad time on a vacation, that said it does happen. After the bidding and vacationing is done if a client is not completely satisfied do they deal with you or the operator who offered the package or vacation spot? 

Sal Dickinson: The answer is both. Hopefully the hotel or attraction would immediately remedy any negative issue a consumer may have. If not, we have had winners contact us and we’ve either refunded their monies or provided them with a credit on their account to be applied to future auctions, depending on circumstances and their preferences. We maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and through our customer service plan to keep it! 

Cliff T.: It's a novel concept, as I mentioned before. I really appreciate your taking time out to explain Florida Vacation Auction to the Candid Conversations readership. Best to you and the crew at Florida Vacation Auction.

Sal Dickinson Thank you Cliff. I appreciate the opportunity for our site to be shared with your readers.

CEO Sal Dickinson leads the team at www.floridavacationauction.com To find out more, bid on a package or just to see what the site is about click on over to the link above. As mentioned the site offers packages and stays at locations in Florida. Sal Dickinson wrote to us from his office in, where else, Florida.

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