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Conservancies

During my career, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the world’s most ardent conservationists, many of them involved in preserving wild places through “conservancies” — an innovative concept that utilizes private or community owned land for the purpose of wildlife conservation.

People often ask me about conservancies (what exactly are they?) and why they should go to one verses a national park or government game reserve. I’m a big fan of conservancies and thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned about them over the years, as well as some of the differences between visiting a conservancy and a national park.

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There is nothing like traveling through the Mediterranean. I have been there countless times, often stopping in the same villages, yet I have never tired of them. There is a romance to the whole area that particularly blankets Italy, France and Spain where I find comfort when I return and see a city as I left it, and yet there is always something new.

Med cruises tanked in 2016

Last year the Mediterranean was hit hard by many factors that affected tourism. We will never really know how people make their decisions but election years are always tough and it was also a restless time for many countries.

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Travel Agency Industry Service Fee Practices

Part of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) wide-ranging benchmark reporting program, the Service Fee report, seeks to discover current service fee practices in the travel agency industry in addition to  travel agents’ other revenue sources such as consultation fees, travel insurance, mark-ups and others. It is truly a balancing act for travel agencies and agents to maximize revenues by obtaining commissions from industry supplier partners and charging clients various fees, without overly relying on commissions or alienating prospective customers. The industry as a whole continues the effort of introducing the concept of fee-based professional travel advice to the general public.

Charging Service Fees

Among ASTA agency members, three quarters (76%) indicated that they charged service fees in 2016. It appears that the downward trend continues after the peak in the mid-2000’s with more than 90% of ASTA agency members charging service fees. The possible reasons can be two-fold: some leisure agencies are shifting away from booking air directly while others are exploring additional revenue sources such as consultation fees. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking the Angst Out of Exotic Vacations

So many agents I visit around the country seem afraid to sell what they perceive as “exotic” destinations to their clients.  They always come up with lots of don’ts and can’ts on why their customers aren’t taking (or don’t want to take) more adventurous trips.

I think the main reason more agents don’t branch away from selling traditional vacations and getaways is a fear of selling what they don’t know.  I don’t know if there’s a fancy name for that—like fear of clowns (coulrophobia) or fear of chickens (alektorophobia). But it sure is easier to come up with reasons why you “can’t” or your clients  “won’t” than actually branching out and learning about new destinations.

Here are my responses to common objections that I often hear in the field:

“My client’s can’t afford to go there”  

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Anita’s Six Steps to Marketing Success

  1. CREATE A BROCHURE FOR YOUR BUSINESS Before you hand out that supplier’s brochure, make sure you hand out a brochure of your own. Use a software program such as Microsoft Publisher and create a brochure about yourself and your business. If you don’t have the Microsoft Publisher software you can go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/templates/default.aspx for the Microsoft Office Template Gallery which offers over 3000 templates for calendars, resumes, greeting cards, business plans and lots more. When putting together your own business brochure, make sure to include the following:

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Part of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) wide-ranging benchmark reporting program, the upcoming annual ASTA Financial Benchmarking report provides a bountiful amount of data and information on the financial trends of ASTA agency members including revenue, sales, transactions, number of clients, profit and so on. This information will be very beneficial to current and prospective ASTA members, consortia, franchise companies, host agencies and supplier partners alike. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Wildlife Travel on Your Clients Bucket List?

I’ve made a living selling wildlife and nature trips for the last 27 years – working with travel and safari companies that have programs to visit iconic bucket list species from mountain gorillas to rhinos to jaguars.

Not only are the agents who sell these trips making high commissions, but if the trip is done correctly, they are also helping to save those species. These agents have tapped into a whole group of avid travelers who aren’t counting countries – but are tallying animals they have seen in the wild.

A Growing Area of Tourism

Tourism wasn’t developed to save the planet. But that’s exactly what certain sections of the industry find themselves doing in the 21st century — aiding and abetting the conservation of certain species (and by extension, other flora and fauna that live in their ecosystems) through a collaboration of national parks and governments, private companies, conservationists, and local communities who have a vested interest in the survival of these animals. Read the rest of this entry »

Got BOGO?

By now I am sure everyone has seen the catchy commercials for Payless Shoe stores. BOGO is “buy one get one half off” at Payless. Previous to the Payless campaign, BOGO was an acronym that was universally known in the marketing industry but rarely presented to customers in this form. Originally, “buy one get one free” was a sudden end-of-season or stock clearance method used by shops who were left with a large quantity of stock that they were looking to sell quickly.

“Buy One, Get One free”, or “Buy one, get one” is a common form of a sales promotion, even now in the travel industry. The two-for-one travel promotions have become quite popular, particularly lately due to the economy. Some cruise lines have marketed sailings such as the “2 for 1 Escape the Economy Sale”. Read the rest of this entry »

A Good Read With A Profitable Ending

Visit England recently announced that 2017 is to be the Year of Literary Heroes and with it being the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, the 20th anniversary of J K Rowling’s first novel, the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication, and with the five-year Brontë 200 celebration well underway, it set me thinking about how you could convert these and other literary connections into a profitable UK travel experience.
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Workforce Considerations in a Shifting Industry

Part of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) wide-ranging benchmark reporting program, the annual Labor and Compensation report seeks to discover current employment trends and compensation models in the travel agency industry. Insights into compensation packages and classifications, recruitment of travel agents as well as agencies’ plans to handle the new Department of Labor (DOL) overtime regulations can be beneficial to various industry segments related to travel agencies.

Travel Agency Business Models and Location Types

Among ASTA members, the most common models are agencies with one location outside the home with employees or ICs (46%) accounting for the largest share, followed by home-based agencies with no employees or ICs (20%), home-based agencies with employees or ICs (19%) and agencies with multiple locations (12%) in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

30 Second Marketing

What is it?

They are called elevator speeches and are intended to prepare you for very brief, chance encounters in an elevator. But elevator speeches are not just for elevators!

An elevator speech is a short, 15-30 second, approximately 150 word sound bite that succinctly and memorably introduces you. It spotlights your uniqueness as well as focuses on the benefits you provide. This is something that should be delivered effortlessly. And it is an excellent way to market yourself.

So, who better than you to describe with passion, precision, and persuasiveness what you do? A great elevator speech makes a lasting first impression, showcases what you do, and allows you to position yourself for meeting new potential clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Today businesses focus not on just being found, but also making sure their products and services are purchased and used. And not just the one time, but again and again. In the travel industry, we are more than just a service because we help our clients create memories of a lifetime. As a result of social media, there are numerous, diverse channels that can be used to market what we do. Getting clients to continue to book through us again and again really gets down to building that successful client relationship, and where personalization is the key. Read the rest of this entry »

For many, the Chelsea Flower Show is THE garden show to include in any springtime UK garden tour and I’m not going to disagree. However, there are some independent clients who just can’t get away in May because of commitments to their own garden club, and I’ve picked out several alternative events that may well catch their eye.

For those who can travel in May, look also at the garden festivals in France, Ireland, and Scotland and see how they can be combined to create something completely new. Read the rest of this entry »

Building stellar client relationships

Today it’s not just about finding clients, but keeping them. Having done sales over the years myself, I know it can be challenging. It really gets back to what’s at the core of any successful business, especially travel. We need to build a relationship with our potential clients, focusing on them and their needs. After that first sale comes in, the ongoing relationship building has to continue. It doesn’t end after that first sale. Getting these clients to rely on us, view us as the travel experts, and use our expertise is really at the core of building that stellar relationship. We need to keep ourselves in the picture.

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Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Do you remember the last time you started searching for a book or solution to help take your business to the next level?  Many times I will gravitate to a book strictly because of the title, which was in the case of Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”.  This book advocates that to be successful we must acquire a skill through professional training and practical experience, rather than pursue our passions.

The book outlines cases of people who pursued their passion, yet regrettably failed achieving business success. According to Newport, they fell short of possessing the necessary business skills to bring their product or service to market.

For any of you who have followed my articles, or read my books, you will know that I believe that you must have a good mixture of not just passion, but also training and experience to build a successful travel business.  Where I do agree with the author is that many people who get into selling travel assume that because they enjoy or have a “passion” for traveling themselves that they will really like doing it as a job or career.  As much fun and as exciting as traveling is, selling travel, working with finicky clients, and building a business are completely different. Read the rest of this entry »

You live and die by your branding

We have all heard that branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, but what do you think “branding” means in your business? To some of the “elder members” of this industry, this is second nature. However, there are many new (or newer) members who are trying to find their way to success!

Simply put, your brand is a type of promise to your customer.  It tells them what they can expect from you… not just the products you sell, but most importantly, the services you provide.  What differentiates you from your competitors? Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

Steering your business

As kids, we were often asked, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” Back then, a pretty clear picture usually came up – doctor, nurse, teacher, pilot, accountant, or maybe a designer, mechanic, or artist. What you wanted to do back then, versus what you wound up doing in your career undoubtedly changed a bit. Today when we go to professional networking and social events, we’re always asked, “So what do you do?” The 30-second elevator pitch is expected. Although I’ve tweaked it, I silently think, “But I do more than that! I wear multiple hats!” As travel professionals, how do we successfully steer and grow our businesses while having to wear all those different hats? Read the rest of this entry »

The need to be visible

Last fall when I reached out to a savvy cruise line executive for some input and help, he said, “Cindy, you need to be more visible to be found, and not be a hidden gem.”  It was a great tip, and I’ve reworked my own strategy, along with implementing new tactics to hit my key target and goal. 

As the landscape of travel industry continues to change and evolve, the growth of the home-based travel professional has become a viable one. Storefront retail travel agencies still exist, and with that can bring more immediate visibility. In the case of home-based professionals, ways to be visible in order to build ongoing clients and get referrals requires more tactics, but ones that can be implemented using diverse strategies. Read the rest of this entry »

Small Gestures Grow Big Business

Utilizing the traditional means of media marketing is more than cost prohibitive for the majority of travel agents.  Because of the financial restraints that most of us are under, word of mouth advertising is vital in building new business.  For this reason it is important that each new client you get is treated as a VIP, no matter how big or small their trip is.  Some of my most lucrative business has come to me as referrals from clients who did very little traveling themselves.  You just never know who they may know! Read the rest of this entry »

A recipe for success– value with bundling

Thinking back a few decades ago, one of the main products retail travel agencies sold was airline tickets. And the other products sold from tours, hotel packages, and cruises added to the revenue stream that complemented airline sales. But with commission cuts and changes, the retail travel industry has evolved. And today the travel professional role has evolved into one more of specialization. Yes, we’ve become more than just being an “order taker,” and where we really provide value! Filling in the gaps and needs of our clients by joining those services and products together – in effect, bundling. Read the rest of this entry »

Four inspirational reasons for UK travel

With the post-Brexit exchange rate holding at its lowest level since the mid ‘80s, fans of English costume dramas will be thrilled by Masterpiece Theatre’s mid-January screening of ITV’s ‘Victoria,’ while Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary will encourage more ‘On Location’ interest in some of their earlier productions.

Staying with the literary theme but blending together David Hockney, Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth, James Herriot, and JMW Turner with the ongoing Bronte 200, celebrations programs opens up new opportunities for more creative tours in England’s North Country. Read the rest of this entry »