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Allons Travel – Looking for my lost shaker of salt

Since I agreed to do the “Travel Agent Diaries,” It has been an epiphany for me. Writing the diaries has forced me to look at myself, my business and what is broken. It has been, to put it bluntly, painful, frustrating and just plain depressing at times.  I have come to the realization that some of what I have been doing hasn’t worked and that I need to reinvent, reinvigorate and just plain do it better.

The nail in the coffin was when a “client” strung me along for over a month wanting quotes. First he wanted to go to Cabo. Gave him a quote. Then he wanted Puerto Vallarta, gave him a quote. Then Canucn. Gave him a couple quotes on properties he saw on line. He said he was going to book with me. When I called him to get his credit card, you guessed it. “sorry I booked online. “

After that fiasco I am now working on retainer. I am tired of giving away my expertise and spending countless hours of my time on people who end up booking elsewhere. The retainer will be applied to final payment.

The second decision I have made is to narrow my focus and marketing. I need to have a niche and I have decided on wine tours. Right now I have a huge butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach because this is way out of my comfort zone especially in a recession. It scares me. As I move forward into this new niche I am taking baby steps including teaching a class in wine destinations and learning everything about my niche. I am in the process of partnering with suppliers who either specialize in wine tours or have specific itineraries built around wine.  Being an independent person with a stubborn streak a mile long, I am actually asking for help and advice. To my surprise I have found that suppliers, tour operators and my peers are willing to help—all that is needed is for you to make the connection and ask. Everyone wants to be a part of your success.

In addition, to my new niche. I am going back to the basics. Training, training and more training including destination training. Completing my ACC/MCC, studying for my CTA. And, taking advantage of supplier training and product webinars. All of which will help me to become the expert.

The third decision I have made is to be me. I am my best asset. I am my brand. Somewhere along the line I was trying to be everything. It was not working. I was not being true to myself. Nor, was it helping my bottom line.

I am taking a hard look at my marketing. I want to know what works and what doesn’t and am implementing a solid marketing plan. I have set goals for myself. I still can’t shake the butterfly feeling but hopefully, with practice and a plan to follow, it will get easier.

Any advice, comments or suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

Mary Stephan is the President of Allons Travel based in Powell, OH. For more information, you can contact Mary at mbs@columbus.rr.com.

Comments to this article are welcomed and encouraged, please utilize the comment form below so we can all learn and interact with each other!

  7 thoughts on “Allons Travel – Looking for my lost shaker of salt

  1. Pat Saizan says:

    Wonderful article! Congratulations on stepping your new niche!

    I am doing the same thing…being me and true to myself. The Agent Diaries has been a blessing in the fact that it makes you take a deep look at what you are doing and your results. Don’t like your results? Change what you are doing.

    This is an exciting journey and I look forward to all the stories of success we will have!!!

  2. Good for you for learning from your mistakes! I think we have all been through such painful incidents and the only thing that makes them more painful is continuing to allow it to happen. I used to pride myself on saying “no service fees” until it came back to bite me in the b—. My time is valuable and I need to be compensated for it. Otherwise I could use it to go play with my grandkids!

  3. Kasey says:

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle, Greek Philosopher.

    Great article!

  4. Ann Petronio says:

    Good for you, Mary! I think the wine tours sounds like a great niche, and you’re doing it the right way by seeking out specialized training and reliable partners. As far as the retainer, I implemented one as of January 1st of this year and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner!

  5. Yet another great entry in your “diary,” Mary! Keep them coming! I learned the no-service-fee lesson earlier this week when FIVE Mexico spring break bookings cancelled out of fear (thanks to those overblown media reports), and the tour company gave them a 100% refund. I was out a LOT of commission, and for some odd reason, this was the only time I had NOT charged my normal service fee. At booking time, I was feeling sorry for them being “poor” college kids and knew for sure that they were going. NEVER again! I pulled MAJOR strings to get them that 100% refund and spent countless hours on the phone using my connections, all with nothing to show for it. That was the LAST time that will happen!

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