In the 60’s it was “signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.” Today in travel, we have the internet, and it is all about online forums and communities. For instance, Travel Research Online has the Community. These internet forums are quite valuable, especially to the home-based professional who typically operates without the benefit of a co-worker in the same office. They provide a connection to colleagues all across the country, with different specializations and levels of experience. Story after story can be told of an agent asking a question on a message board and receiving immeasurable help, from advice for handling difficult situations to destination recommendations. But, there is a problem! Read the rest of this entry »
UPDATE: Uber has suspended operations in Nevada based on a court ruling.
Recently, I attended Travel Weekly’s Cruise World in Ft. Lauderdale. If you haven’t been to this show, you are missing out and I highly encourage you to make plans to attend the next one, in November 2015. But, that isn’t what this article is about.
My hotel was about 3 miles away from the convention center where Cruise World was held. Although shuttle buses were provided for attendees, there were times they were not convenient, or not running at all. Taxicabs are plentiful in Ft. Lauderdale, but they’re rather expensive. For the 3-mile trek from the hotel to the convention center, the fare was about $15. Sure, I could walk, but some destinations just require a vehicle. Enter Uber. Read the rest of this entry »
There are experts everywhere. We are surrounded by self-proclaimed experts in virtually every facet of our lives–just look around. There are experts for social media (even specialized experts in one platform of social media), experts for websites, experts for sales…if you can think of it, there’s an expert out there for it! It can be difficult to weed out all the riff-raff and find the GOOD experts, the ones who not only know what they’re talking about, they have a historical record of positives to back up their expert claims. I call these experts my “certified gurus.” Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last year, I have noticed a surprising disease beginning to spread throughout the travel industry. It is a horrible disease, one that affects some of us just a little bit, others a great deal, and still others not at all. This disease has the potential to sharply divide our industry in a way never seen before, and has in fact already started to divide us, especially within Facebook groups and online agent-only forums. In fact, as I write this article, I am deeply troubled by this disease and what its appearance means for our industry’s future. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2010, I decided on a niche for my agency, Journeys By Steve, to go after corporate incentive and meeting groups. A relative was the VP of Sales for a franchise group of small business owners across the US and Canada, and I felt his company would be a great client for my services. Using his help, I approached the COO of the company, and made my pitch. I talked about what I did, how I did it, and how my arrangement would benefit the company over what they were currently doing. I had done several months’ worth of research prior to this meeting, so I felt confident I knew their challenges and how to correct them. I came away from that meeting, not with a contract in hand, but with a promise that they’ll keep me in mind. Read the rest of this entry »
Although email communication has become a popular choice for many people in our industry, a great portion of client communication still relies on use of the telephone. By hearing the voice, words and inflection we use (or don’t use), clients are able to get an idea of our confidence, what kind of a day we are having, and how we feel about them, our business, and a whole variety of other things. The power of voice to convey more than just words is extremely powerful and it is important to control that image as much as possible. Read the rest of this entry »
Familiarization, or FAM, trips are an important and necessary component of our jobs. We know they are not vacations, and in fact they can take many forms from self-guided to fully orchestrated. Sometimes a FAM trip will pop up in the midst of your vacation–a travel agent’s work is never done. But, are you getting the most out of your FAM? Let’s talk about how you can get the most out of your FAM trip experience, including tips on managing information, and how to make a good impression on the supplier. Here are 8 tips! Read the rest of this entry »
The other week, one of my clients was celebrating a birthday. I sat down, wrote out a nice birthday message on a blank birthday card, and mailed it to her. A few days later, I received a phone call from her – my birthday card was really thoughtful, unexpected, and made her day. I scored HYOOGE brownie points with that client not only by remembering her birthday, but personalizing that remembrance.
It seems like such a simple thing – choosing a domain name for your business. Domain names are the “address” by which your website is found on the Internet. In fact, websites are identified by an IP address that looks something similar to 123.456.789.0. But, that looks ugly and it’s hard to remember – so, domain names act like a mask on top of the IP address. It’s much easier to remember www.ABCTravelCompany.com rather than an IP address! But, if you don’t plan properly, your domain name can actually hurt your business! I have seen many strange domain names in this industry, some of which make me ask, “What were they thinking?”
In recent months, travel agent discussions at trade shows as well as online forums have hit upon the availability issue. Simply put, the client wants the travel agent to be available anytime they call, whether it’s in the morning, afternoon, or evening, weekend or holiday, and if the travel agent does not respond to the client quickly, they will move on to another agent or agency, or even book online.
There’s some validity to this perspective – today’s society of near-instant communication makes it difficult to delay a response to a client communication, especially when there is pressure to do so for fear of losing the client’s loyalty. Read the rest of this entry »
In all the talk we hear about specializing and finding a niche, we shouldn’t forget that our clients come to us, first, for the knowledge and advice we give. Secondly, they come to us for the experience we provide them, and that’s what we’re discussing today. What do YOU provide your clients that another travel agent doesn’t? What are you doing for them that the online sites aren’t? If you think of life as a bowl of Cheerios, you want to be the Fruit Loop in that bowl that is remembered, anticipated with happiness, and enjoyed thoroughly. So, how do you enhance the client experience like a Fruit Loop enhances a bowl of Cheerios? Read the rest of this entry »
I haven’t had a true vacation since I became a travel consultant. Every vacation I have had has turned into a miniature fam trip, even if it was SUPPOSED to be a relaxing personal vacation. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been able to take at least ONE getaway each year where I truly leave the office behind and let my batteries recharge. If it’s something you struggle with, too, then perhaps my experience will help! Read the rest of this entry »
Many independent travel agents do not have offices that are open to the public. Many of these offices are in private residences, and often homeowner’s association or business license regulations disallow clients from visiting the offices. So what is the travel agent to do when a sit-down with a client is a better option than phone or email?
Luckily, just about every city and town has a few choice places to meet at no cost that can be excellent places to conduct business. Where you ultimately choose is dependent on your needs. Do you need a quiet area, or is the low-level hum of an active coffeeshop too distracting? Do you need Internet access? Is having access to food and drink a requirement? And, because some agents are located in more rural areas, what is the most convenient for you and the client?
Here are five options that you may, or may not, have considered as meeting places for you and your clients: Read the rest of this entry »
If you are anything like me, you’ve got a lot of electronic equipment in the office. The desktop computer, printer, keyboards, digital camera, laptop, tablet computer, ticket printers – the list goes on! It can be aggravating to keep things neat and tidy, especially when you have a lot of cords to contend with. I did some research to find the best ways to organize your electronic zoo. This can come in handy for your home stuff, too! Read the rest of this entry »
We are surrounded all the time by self-proclaimed experts in a variety of things. There are experts for social media (even specialized experts in one platform of social media!), experts for websites, experts for sales…if you can think of it, there’s an expert out there for it! It can be difficult to weed out all the riff-raff and find the GOOD experts, the ones who not only know what they’re talking about, they have a historical record of positives to back up their expert claims. I call these “certified” experts gooroos. Like, guru, only top of the heap. Read the rest of this entry »
In the past, I’ve discussed steps you can take to organize your office, and even how to organize your office electronics. This time, I’m going to discuss organizing the files on your computer. If you’re the sort to dump everything into the same folder all the time, or to keep it all on your desktop, this article is written for you! A computer file system is an extension of your paper filing cabinet; the more organized it is, the easier it is for you to find the information you need quickly. And, while it seems like this is elementary information, there are a lot of people out there who just don’t think this way naturally, and put every file in the same folder, regardless. Read the rest of this entry »
As travel professionals, it is our sacred duty to search out hotels, cruise ships, tours, activities, restaurants, and other must-sees and have-to-dos as much as we can. Invariably, we will be called upon to counsel a client and provide recommendations for all of those. Experiencing the product is important to understanding it and being able to sell it to the right client. In doing so, we come face to face with people who can make or break our clients’ experience. The waitstaff at a restaurant. The room steward on a cruise ship. The talking guide on the hop-on hop-off bus tour. Every one of them makes judgments about us, sometimes in our capacity as travel professionals, and those judgments can affect every one of us as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »
Not long ago, I shared with you how email autoresponders are used improperly and can be a nuisance or even present you negatively to those you wish to do business with. The sad truth is, email autoresponders are the tip of the iceberg. Which of the following Bad Email Habits are you guilty of? Read the rest of this entry »
It seems like such a simple thing – choosing a domain name for your business. Domain names are the “address” by which your website is found on the Internet. In fact, websites are identified by an IP address that looks something similar to 123.456.789.0. But, that looks ugly and it’s hard to remember – so, domain names act like a mask on top of the IP address. It’s much easier to remember www.ABCTravelCompany.com rather than an IP address! But, if you don’t plan properly, your domain name can actually hurt your business! I have seen many strange domain names in this industry, some of which make me ask, “What were they thinking?” Read the rest of this entry »
Every day, we come face to face with ethical issues that we may not know how to deal with. Sometimes, the correct way to proceed is easy and clear, other times it’s horribly clouded and we are left wondering what to do.
One such example came to me not long ago. I recently moved to a new state and in getting settled in, I developed a list of prospects for my niche specialty. One such prospect is someone I knew about before moving up here – I felt he would make an excellent group cruise leader. He has a rather loyal, and large, following, he’s active on social media, and he fits several other of my “ideal” criteria. The problem for me was that he had previously done group cruises with another agency in the city. I felt that I could provide him a better program than the traditional travel agent group cruise program, something that would really enhance his followers’ loyalty and grow his revenues if handled properly. Do I approach him about my program, knowing well and good he’s worked with another agency/agent in the past? Read the rest of this entry »
Whether you use an email client like Microsoft Outlook or a web-based program like Gmail, most likely you will have a feature called an autoresponder. This is a terrific feature that helps other people to know that you did receive their email, but you aren’t able to reply personally right away. Yet, too many times, this feature is way overused, or used improperly, and it can cause a negative perception of you and your business. (note: this is different from the autoresponder feature found in email sending programs like AWeber, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and others.)
Let’s be frank, here: I personally hate it when I receive an autoresponse to an email I’ve sent, and I am willing to bet you do, too. Read the rest of this entry »