Author Archives: Richard Earls

There are 634 articles by Richard Earls published on this site.


I love airports. I’m serious.  Even in these days of a less than optimal air travel experience, I still have a kid-like fascination with the very concept of an airport.  The moving walkways, the arrival and departure boards, airplanes taking off outside of the windows. You walk through a door in Seattle and you walk out a door in Bangkok.

And still there are people who don’t believe in magic.

Calendars are a lot like airports.  You walk through one portal at the end of the year into a new adventure in the next. So as you prepare to hop off of Flight 2016 and saunter over to Flight 2017, it may be a worthwhile exercise to think through a few tips to ensure a great trip. Read the rest of this entry »


In a service industry like travel consulting, carrying a good attitude into the buying process is vitally important to success. Our outer world reflects our inner landscape. If we view clients as opponents, if we don’t feel good about our skill set, if we don’t fundamentally have a positive perspective on the travel profession, every aspect of your travel practice, including your revenue, will suffer. Clients intuitively detect, and respond to, attitude and mood.  Read the rest of this entry »

Travel Professionals: Believe In Yourself

Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking with a great many travel consultants at trade shows, and as always, I have been impressed.  Today’s travel professionals are smart, engaged, and well-informed.  They have taken on the challenges of learning their profession and the necessary technologies. There is a real eagerness to learn as much as possible and the attendees at the shows packed every training session offered.  A general sense of optimism is tangible in the air, a feeling that the pent-up demand for travel is starting to show in the marketplace.

A few of the newer agents reminded me of something, however, a marketing lesson so basic that we often forget its importance. These newbies would typically breach their concern by saying something like “how can I compete against (fill in the blank)“. You can fill in the “blank” with any one of these: Travelocity, the Internet, Priceline,  Mega-agency, home-based agents, store-front agents, suppliers direct, etc. Early on in every travel professional’s career, an obsession with competition takes front and center, occupying a lot of mental energy and worry.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” ~ Marianne Williamson

We tend to play it safe. We set goals we are certain to hit rather than swinging for the fence. We accept our limitations. Let’s increase next year’s sales by 5%.  Let’s go for 15%!

But what if we didn’t? What if we went for a 50% increase?  100%? What if you set a goal to top three million a year as a travel professional? What would your business plan look like, what tactics would it include? I know travel professionals who do it! They have a strategic and tactical plan to back them up, certainly, but they started with a big, big, goal. Read the rest of this entry »

Pushing the Conversation with Clients

It sometimes seems difficult  to elicit good feedback, to get a conversation going with your clients. Too often we only hear from clients when things go wrong. Or worse, we don’t hear from them at all. The smart travel professional pushes the conversation and makes it happen. Without that initiative, the client is soon distracted elsewhere and the next booking can happen without our input. Read the rest of this entry »


Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” -Dalai Lama

How amazingly special is it when a client takes the time and effort to say “Thanks”?  Being on the receiving end of gratitude is a pretty special thing. We all get too few “Thanks”, don’t we?

So how often do we say “Thank You” to our clients? If we recognize the significance of those words, shouldn’t we be a bit more liberal with their use ourselves? Clients are the very reason our profession exists. Travel consulting is an almost purely service business. Yet, we sometimes feel as though we have done a client a favor when we work on their behalf, rather than the other way around! Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted: Grounding your 2017 Business Plan

The year is all but over.  You have a few short weeks now to develop a very special list of wants. I’m not talking about the holidays, however.

What do you want for your travel practice next year? The question “What do you want” can sometimes be one of the most difficult to answer. It’s an odd psychological quirk we often find it far easier to say what we don’t want. We have a natural resistance to saying what we want, as though we may sound overly anxious, needy, or capable of jinxing our luck. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s October 20th, and I find myself in Dearborn, Michigan. It has been a long time since I was last in Dearborn. I’m wearing a tuxedo; it has been a longer time since I last wore a tuxedo. I’m here at the amazing Henry Ford Museum to celebrate Sky Bird Travel’s 40th year in the travel industry in 2016. The company has sponsored a gala, a black tie dinner to appreciate its friends and customers, and the evening is nothing if not spectacular. Surrounded by authentic aircraft of decades ago in the museum’s “Heroes of the Sky” aviation section, an Indian ensemble plays on traditional instruments. Everyone is mixing and, while it is apparent many know each other from years of business past, striking up a conversation in this setting is easily done as everyone admires the antiques surrounding us. Read the rest of this entry »

Are you afraid of your clients?

The relationship between you and your clients reflects the temperament of your travel practice.  The more open you are, the more easily you encounter your clients and the more gracefully you carry your industry knowledge, the better your relationships. The travel professionals with the happiest clients did not win their approval with pricing or vague notions of customer service, but with the power of a relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

Sweating the details

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

So often our business plans focus on quarterly and annual plans, eventualities so large we forget the small details of which they are made.  For example, “Customer Service” is a grand concept, encompassing a great many ideas and strategies. But in reality it is the smiles, the kindnesses, the empathy, and the concern for the well-being of the client bringing those ideas to life. It’s easy to lose the details in our devotion to our grand plans, but success really is built out of the myriad small tasks making up our day to day activities. Perhaps we owe some consideration to details. Read the rest of this entry »

Honoring mistakes

I’m uncertain of the metaphysical reality of karma, but something about it rings true to me.  If there is indeed anything to the notion, however, I shudder at what an absolute mess I must have been in my previous life, because the particular one I’m living now seems completely devoted to teaching me by trial and error. The mistakes I have made in business, as a parent, partner, and human being are legion.

A distant mentor suggests we learn to celebrate our mistakes. I not only concur, I consider it necessary.  Read the rest of this entry »

The travel profession and storytelling

“A human life is a story told by God and in the best of stories told by humans, we come closer to God.” – Hans Christian Anderson

What is your reaction when someone says, “Let me tell you a story?” Most likely you listen attentively. The human mind loves a good story. Some portion of our psyche seeks a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every story has characters, a setting, and a series of incidents resulting in something memorable. Sound familiar?

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Demystifying Travel for Your Clients

Fear, ignorance and inertia – these three keep a lot of people from traveling. Let’s face it – North Americans in general, and US citizens in particular, are very timid travelers. We are all easy victims for a news media that plays to worst case scenarios. It is little wonder that people are often afraid to travel when the news is filled with stories of  airline safety, drug violence, riots, and terrorism.  The fact of the matter is, however, that most travelers will never encounter anything more troublesome than an airport delay or a stolen purse abroad.  The day-to-day crime in most foreign destinations to which the majority of North Americans travel is less prolific and violent than that found within a ten mile radius of those same travelers’ front door. Read the rest of this entry »

Habit Forming

Habits are powerful factors in our lives. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily express our character produce our effectiveness or ineffectiveness. ~ Stephen R. Covey

As Stephen Covey indicates, habits are powerful forces in our lives, perhaps even more so than we suspect. Good habits we often perceive as difficult to form and bad habits impossible to break. Ironically, the reverse also appears to be true. Good habits seem as flimsy as the first excuse to disrupt a routine and bad habits arise before we notice their presence. Read the rest of this entry »

Killing Time

We have all heard that “time is money.” Indeed, much of the way we speak of time has a monetary ring to it. Your time has a real value and spending it poorly is a dangerous thing to do. Carl Sandburg once said that if you don’t spend your time wisely, others would spend it for you. If there is any skill that comes to the fore during periods when you are very busy, it’s time management.  In a one-on-one service industry like travel consulting, keeping track of your time can be a very difficult thing to do.  We build our travel practices not on an hourly basis, but on the satisfaction of the clients we serve, so we naturally invest a great deal of time ensuring the quality of the experiences we create.

Rightly so. Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging Like an Expert

It is important to your digital marketing plan to consider incorporating a blog into your travel agency’s website. However, with so many blogs vying for attention, you need to take steps to ensure your blog will stand out and speak with an authority that captures the attention of your readership. As a professional travel consultant, you have a real expertise on a topic of interest to the public. The key to delivering blogging articles that truly engage readers and elicits comments from them is to generate content that is lively, unexpected, and fresh. Making sure that your blog is communicating on both an intellectual and an emotional level will keep your audience returning to your blog for new information. Read the rest of this entry »

Way back in October of 2004, Chris Anderson published an article in Wired Magazine called “The Long Tail.”  Anderson later elaborated the concept of the Long Tail in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. The theory is that while every industry has its blockbuster products, there is a “long tail” of product sold in much smaller quantities that, collectively, is often larger than the most popular items.  Anderson went on to explain how technology, like online access to thousands of suppliers by millions of consumers, was making it possible for niche businesses to thrive in the new economy.

Does travel have a long tail? It does indeed.  If you look at the cruise industry, for example, the mass market Caribbean cruises dominate the scene – these are the “blockbuster” inventory items of the travel marketplace. But behind that massive body of sales is the long tail of niche cruises – Antarctica, river cruising, eco-cruises, the Amazon, the Galapagos. Vast crowds travel every  year to Las Vegas, Disney and Cancun. But a much larger combined crowd travels to Iceland, national parks, Tanzania and lesser known destinations seeking out new and different experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

Easy Does It

How easy is it to do business with you? We sometimes miss how baffled a client may feel when first launching out on their vacation planning. First, they have to know you exist, a result of how well you have executed your marketing plan.  But let’s start somewhat further down the road. Let’s say the client knows you exist –  they must now be motivated to use you as opposed to using another agency or booking themselves online.

Most of us gravitate to the path of least resistance; this includes your clients. After all, their computer is right there on the desk.  They don’t have to speak with anyone when they use their computer or pay a research fee. They don’t have to feel any pressure “to buy” and they don’t have to feel embarrassed if their budget doesn’t meet what they feel is your threshold for “interesting.” Read the rest of this entry »

Product Knowledge VS. Client Knowledge

I am the proud owner of a new bike.  My old bike, a bargain basement no-brand, was shot.  Recently I started researching a new bike in anticipation of my purchase.  The choices were overwhelming.  Not only was a “good” bike much more expensive than the one I purchased eight years ago, but the technologies had changed considerably.

So I did what you might expect. I began visiting bike shops and I hit the internet to read reviews and research.   There are four dedicated bike-shops in Tallahassee all selling competing brands with little or no overlap in inventory.  Read the rest of this entry »

Promises Made

“We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears.”  ~Francois duc de la Rochefoucauld

How easy is it to make a promise? Far too easy.  We make promises continually.  Sometimes they take the form of solemn oaths (“I do”) and other times they take the form of appointments and deliverables. We easily assure our business partners we will “be right back with you” and then let far too much time slip away.  Suddenly our promise has gone stale and we are working not to hit our deadline, but to not be terribly late in our performance.

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Competition Understood

I once had a travel professional take me to task because I provided them with an article in USA Today which also contained advertising for other travel programs. That would never do, she assured me, because like so many other papers and magazines, USA Today was “filled with travel advertising.”  Likewise, many agents will not link to travel articles that include the contact information of hotels or tour operators.

I believe many travel professionals sometimes work with an over-broadly image of their competition because they have failed to properly define their customer base and their proper relationship to their clients. To these few, the landscape is filled with competition. Read the rest of this entry »