Michael Dunne, Business Development Manager for Sky Bird Travel & Tours, started in the travel industry thirty years ago. He has served on the board for both the Midwest Business Travel Association (now Chicago BTA), and Mississippi Valley ASTA; Michael was also a founding member of SITE Chicago. Often found sharing sales ideas and strategies with other travel agents, Michael is always ready to demonstrate Skybird Travel’s commitment to the travel agent community. Skybird participates in multiple tradeshows per year, and Michael uses these opportunities to mix with new agents while helping them develop their own business, and achieve success by teaching them how to utilize reputable air consolidators, like Skybird.
Travel Research Online (TRO): As Business Development Manager for Sky Bird Travel & Tours how do you spend most of your time?
Michael Dunne (MD): My primary role is to develop new customers for Sky Bird Travel. I do this by visiting with agents at trade shows, answering questions on Facebook, and calling (in-person and by phone) agents who I know are not using us but could benefit from our services.
TRO: You began your career in the travel industry thirty years ago. Looking back, what surprises you the most about how the travel industry has changed over time?
MD: If the operative word were “surprise,” I would say I’m surprised at the commoditization of travel. Travel is visceral and surrendering the sale to a price comparison negates the experience of a professional travel consultant. I’m also surprised at the number of travel agents who have decided to no longer sell airline tickets. Airline tickets are the “gateway drug” to so many other travel opportunities for your client.
TRO: Sky Bird Travel & Tours assists professional travel agents, home-based agents, and travel consortiums. What sets Sky Bird Travel & Tours apart from other companies?
MD: I believe there are 400+ companies that call themselves consolidators. Very often, an airline contract is the same between consolidators. I like to use the area equation (length x width). We’ve been around for 41 years (length) have our own contracts with 90+ airlines (width). This, in addition to being family-owned, allows us to offer the best customer service in the market.
TRO: Sky Bird Travel & Tours participates in over twenty tradeshows per year. How are tradeshows a valuable resource for travel specialists?
MD: For all the talk about price, travel is still a relationship business. Agents get to see that there are real people (about 200 for Sky Bird) behind what appears to be a simple website. An agent who attends a tradeshow to gain usable sales ideas will not come away empty handed. (See our blog on 10 ways to fail as a travel agent)
TRO: For you personally, what is the most rewarding part of your job?
MD: When I see an agent stretch her/himself, try something new and succeed, because of a discussion we’ve had. I feel like I’ve driven another stake in the ground for the small business owner.
TRO: Can you talk about some of the benefits of utilizing Sky Vacations?
Sky Vacations came about, really, by request from our agent customers. They were looking for someone they could trust when their typical tour operator couldn’t meet their needs. Sky Vacations has DMC relationships around the globe. They can build programs from scratch and wow the most discerning traveler. They are not limited to set departures or itineraries. I like to tell agents, “If your customer asks you if you can do it, just say ‘yes’ and Sky Vacations will get to work to make it happen.”
TRO: How does a travel specialist become involved with Sky Bird Travel & Tours? Is it easy?
MD: We ask agents to register at www.SkyBirdTravel.com. This is how we verify if they really are travel agents. Once registered, we make it as easy as possible to work with us. Agents can call, email or use our web-based booking engine, Wings. If they use Wings, they can still call or email with questions on those bookings.
TRO: What quality of customer service should travel specialists expect from Sky Bird Travel & Tours?
MD: Our mission statement says that agents should expect quick and friendly service. We have offices open 9am-9pm Eastern Time M-F (10am-5pm Sat) as well as 24/7 emergency service and ticketing.
For more information on Michael and Skybird Travel & Tours, visit them online at www.skybirdtravel.com.