Monthly Archives: April 2009

In my first submission for the Agent Diary series I talked about my goal of having 100 new clients in 100 days. So far I’m over a third of the way there and I am very excited about how things are going! But there’s a long hard road between setting and reaching goals. While I’ve never been adverse to hard work, patience has never been my strong suit. Since success rarely happens overnight, I had to develop a strategy where I could actually “see” the end result.

I am a firm believer in two things when it comes to marketing. First, you have to be proactive and second, you need to plan. Usually the plan starts with a technique I’ve learned called “backwards planning”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Peru

Peru has an appeal to both the adventure and the luxury markets, a real opportunity for an excellent first experience to Latin America. Join Sunny Land Tours on a voyage to the largest of the Andean Republics. Remember, you can use 60-Second Geography articles in your own newsletters and on your web sites. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Today’s column was scheduled to be about designing print ads. That will have to wait.  On Sunday evening, as I watched CNN relentlessly report the swine flu situation, I felt there was another marketing message that had more urgency. No doubt many of you will have clients calling wanting to cancel their trips to Mexico as a result of the negative publicity. It will be important for you to handle the situation well to avoid making a bad situation worse, so here are a few tips that will help you deal with the situation in its earliest stages. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Travel Research Online launched just over two years ago with the idea that travel agents needed access to solid, professional tools to assist with marketing to clients. We put together a collection of destination guides, ePostcards, videos and articles for agents to use free of charge with only one request: that in exchange you view the banner ads on our site and  the email broadcasts we do, to consider using the tour operators that support us. Like you, we have a business model. Like you, we try to offer real value for both our advertisers and for our clients – in our case you, the travel agent.

To the end of providing travel agents with professional tools for free, TRO two years ago licensed a set of destination guides. The problems was the information was a bit on the thin side. Good enough…but with real need for enhancement. We wanted bigger and we wanted more Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

6 Tips for making THE impression

Last week, I was reminiscing about my younger bartending days and I could not help but smile about the antics of an old friend whose energy and verve literally knew no bounds. The guy was the life of the party. He was never down. He never took no for an answer And everyone always wanted to be with or near him. As a result, he is an incredibly successful businessman, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. Pat Croce started his career as a physical therapist for the Philadelphia Flyers pro hockey team and eventually ended up owning the Philadelphia 76ers and taking them to the NBA finals in 2001. Since then, he has moved on from one success to the next. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

But I’m so lonely

In a previous column, I wrote about the rewards and challenges of working from home with the kids running in and out, dogs, cat and all of the nuances of having a home in your office and your office in a home. I touched briefly on the loneliness factor. Loneliness is probably one of the biggest obstacles home based agents face–especially me. I am a very social person. Anyone that has ever met me knows how much I like to socialize. Hey, I wasn’t named social chairperson in my sorority for being a wallflower. It’s in my DNA. Being social to me is like breathing. I talk to anyone from taxi drivers, to people in airports. I am sure my seat mates on planes love me—but they may have a different take on that. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Recently some airline CEOs have been asked about their vision of the future. Coincidentally, both Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson and American Airlines CEO Richard Arpey share the same vision, or in Arpey’s case, “dream.” Regardless of the terminology, both men indicated they foresee a future in which travel intermediaries pay for the privilege of selling their product. A reverse commission, if you will.

Much like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, both men envision a utopia that punishes individuals for breaking from their planned universe. They see a world in which everyone will happily accept that what they say is right and good. A world in which travel agents and online travel agencies will pay for the privilege of selling what has become a transportation commodity, and not a pleasurable one at that. They see a place where they, not the customer, are the center of the universe. Read the rest of this entry »

I just got back from Cruise3Sixty and I am more motivated than ever. I am convinced the travel profession is the only place I want to be. While I learned a tremendous amount, the biggest lesson I took away was  that I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to about the travel industry. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew I was a novice and I recognized my need for additional training, but this really is no industry for posers or pretenders. There really is a lot to keep up with in order to succeed; both as a business person and as a service provider. That is assuming a person has a genuine desire for true success. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Networking & a ‘Royal’ rescue

Book your travel online! The Internet will put the travel agents out of business. I’m in a MLM, so just go to my website and book your travel. How many times have you heard these, or similar, phrases over the past decade?  Well, travel agents are still around, and believe it or not they are still kicking. People often will question what a travel agent can do for a consumer when the Internet claims to solve every travel woe. Well, one thing the Internet will never have is the personal connection to the client; and more importantly for the client—a personal connection with other agents and suppliers.

Travel suppliers have taken some heat over the past few years. United is feeling it right now for their new “fat fee” and other suppliers have proven to be less than agent friendly. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Paperless office: myth or reality?

We’ve all seen the ads of a carefree independent agent sitting on a beach somewhere – laptop perched upon bare legs soaking up the sun, sipping a cool beverage, on the cell phone with a client booking their World Cruise group.

While that all sounds wonderful in theory, sometimes the reality can be a tad more problematic. What happens when the agent realizes that they don’t quite have all the tools or information necessary, like client credit card or passport numbers, to complete the booking process? Or the client is returning your call and wants to talk to you about the trip details you quoted the week before while you were still in the office.  Or they’d like to see a brochure – but you won’t be back for a week. And don’t get me started on how frustrating it can be to deal with the excruciatingly slow Internet connection aboard a cruise ship when you’re trying to access crucial information. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Germany

Modern Germany’s liberalism and progressive status stands in stark contrast to its profoundly volatile history. Visit Germany with Image Tours and see the an ideal starting point for any visit to Europe – Germany borders nine other countries. Remember, you can use 60-Second Geography articles in your newsletters and on your websites. Read the rest of this entry »

More fruit, less pastries and orange juice. I will get to the meaning of that statement in just a bit. For now, I am going to follow the Toastmasters’ evaluation format. I am going to sandwich the low parts of this entry with a couple of upbeat messages.

If you read my last diary entry, I was down to my last $347. I am happy to report that the “losses” for the business meant quite the windfall in the form of a tax refund both from the Feds and my State. My bank account is now reading much closer to full than hovering around “E”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Were you listening?

Two weeks ago…were you listening? There were some pretty powerful messages coming out of Travel Research Online and hopefully you heard them. If not, you likely have lost out on some revenue. And be honest, who doesn’t need some additional revenue right about now? As a direct result of the messages from TRO, I was able to earn $1000 for about 30 seconds of effort. Heck, that’s better than joining a MLM! So what were the two messages and how did I make the money? Facebook and Twitter! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Who needs a Host?

Many travel agents and agencies, especially the growing number of home-based agents, are not totally independent, but instead are Independent Contractors (ICs) for what is known as a Host Agency. Instead of having their own relationship with travel suppliers, they work through this larger agency and generally pay a fee and/or a part of their commissions to the Host Agency for the privilege of using their credentials. Is this relationship really necessary?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of being an IC for a Host Agency versus being totally independent. With respect to commissions, unless you are a high volume agent, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Step-by-Step Marketing

I have now completed my 40th year in travel marketing…much of it within the tour operation side of the business, and for the last 6 years with my own travel marketing company.   I’d like to share some points on getting the best results possible from a marketing budget in today’s sometimes confusing marketing world

The Budget Allocation.    This is the first step.  For most travel companies (and I am referring to travel suppliers to the industry such as tour operators) (Ed Notethe same rule is applicable to travel agencies.) the rule of thumb for determining the amount of the budget has always been 1-3% Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Egypt

On everyone’s list of things to see before they die are they Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. But Egypt is also the Nile, Luxor, Memphis, Alexandria and the beach side resort of Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea. Join Sunny Land Tours on a trip to the land of the Pharaohs.

Remember, you can use 60-Second Geography articles in your own newsletters and on your web sites. Read the rest of this entry »

Last time, I talked about specializing. I have a niche–wine tours. Now what? How do I market that niche? More importantly can I make money with my new niche? Can I incorporate some of my other interests such as family travel, cruises and Disney into the mix? On paper it sounds easy. But, I needed help. I needed a mentor and I found one. I am lucky to have found one here in Columbus, OH that not only “gets it” but does very well at her travel business by focusing on her niche. I met with her last week and we discussed Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

The Importance of Fams

Darren Cronian is, among other things, a UK blogger about all things travel. Last week he penned an article entitled “Familiarisation trips in the travel industry should be banned” (they have a “z” in British English but they call it a “Zed” and use it for other things). Darren was reacting to a news story that Dubai invited some 2000 travel agents on a mega fam trip designed to acquaint agents on the wonders of the UAE. Darren argued that in a time of economic distress worldwide when agencies and suppliers alike are laying off staff and making dramatic cutbacks in operations, perhaps sending agents across the globe on a boondoggle makes little sense. Darren makes the argument that with the easy availability of video and teleconference, such trips are unnecessary and even unethical expenditures of resources.

Mr. Cronian rightly predicted it was likely some would say he was talking “rubbish”- another great British phrase meaning something less than “talking trash” in American English but more than “nonsense”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Watch your wallet

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” When Thomas Paine uttered these infamous words back on December 23, 1776, he had no idea what lay in store in the future. Yes, we are in trying times and while there are some positive signs for our immediate future, we still need to be very cautious about our businesses. We are in a recession because the government told us so; and with every recession there will be an abundance of scams, schemes and failures which will separate you from your money. Take a look at a few of which you may not (or may) be aware. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Juggling jobs

When I did my first Travel Agent Diary, I told you a lot about myself. What I neglected to mention is that I am also a juggler. Not in a literal sense but in a figurative one. Among all the other things in my life. I also juggle two sources of income—my travel business and my “other” job as a Human Resources Specialist for an insurance company. Both are very important to my financial security and I don’t work either one with any less fortitude. They most certainly are not hobbies.

I work nearly 40 hours as required by my employer each week and I devote countless hours to my travel practice —something I require. This wasn’t always the plan though. In fact, the business plan my partner and I drew up in 2007 called for me to “retire” from the corporate world by the end of 2008; but that’s not quite practical with today’s economy.

Beginning in the fall of 2008, some of my clients began to feel the effects of the real estate collapse and the stock market decline. They began to think seriously about their discretionary income; and travel most definitely falls into the category of discretionary. I saw many clients scale back their trips and a few canceled outright. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Online forums are the “old timers” of social marketing. Not as flashy as Facebook or Twitter, online forums are places where people with a common interest gather to trade insights, discuss ideas and to meet new friends. There are online forums for professionals, for politics, for pet lovers, gamers, travel, and for parents, both at a national level and locally. There are not many interests where you cannot find a niche online community. Like any gathering of consumers, there is a real marketing opportunity, but one that can be successfully accessed only by applying very careful rules of etiquette.

The ambiance in most online forums is relaxed and casual. It is very important to understand at the outset that the members of an online community are there because they enjoy each other’s company. Communities never form around the idea of being monetized and overt marketing is typically strongly discouraged Read the rest of this entry »