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Getting and Giving

“When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups.” ~ John Coltrane

There are many reasons to be grateful for having a career in travel planning, but I think the most important is the impact a travel professional has on the life of the client. Travel professionals assist clients to turn vacations, family travel and even business trips into the best possible experiences. By visiting the streets of new cities, meeting people from around the world and exposure to different cultures, we are all made better people, citizens of a larger reality. As a travel professional, you have the opportunity to play an important part in people’s lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Bad Lighting

How photogenic are you?  I am not.  It takes either the most amazingly lucky lighting or the most skilled of photographers to make me look good in a photograph.  I tell myself it has nothing to do with my personal appearance.  Instead, I am the victim of bad lighting. Worldwide.

At ASTA’s Global Conference in Reno last year, I participated in a panel titled “The Value of Using a Travel Agent.”  Driven by ASTA’s Research Department, the information provided was actually quite remarkable. Perhaps the most interesting and hopeful number in the report is the number of people currently using a travel agent which hovers around 25% in all age categories.  Wow. Read the rest of this entry »

Progressive Marketing

I’m not sure the Mad Men marketing and advertising professionals of 50 years ago would truly recognize today’s marketing environment. Many of the fundamental principles are the same, but the way businesses communicate with the buying public has changed. Fifty years seems like a long time but, apparently, not everyone has cracked the code.

In the last century, advertising and marketing was a one-way channel from company to public. Today’s marketing is all about conversation, a two way dialogue between company and consumer. So dynamic is the technology and media, these conversations can take on amazing scope when even a one-to-one correspondence goes viral and becomes national news.  Here is a little roundup of some of last year’s more notable social media blunders.  Read the rest of this entry »

Enhancing Supplier Relationships

January and February of 2017 are literally history. Yikes! The new car smell is gone but we can all  look forward to good things for the balance of this year. It’s time to focus on enhancing every aspect of your travel practice, making every point of contact with clients as sharp as possible. As we have said to the point of extreme repetition, travel consulting is all about relationships.

The unique nature of your position as a travel consultant, however, is dual facing.  Your relationships with clients are of primary importance.  But of nearly equal importance is the relationships you develop with your suppliers.  Knowing a supplier intimately is a very large part of mastering the art of being a travel professional. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding SWOT

Annually a company needs to be reminded of the need for a SWOT analysis.  The SWOT acronym indicates Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The traditional SWOT looks at Strengths and Weaknesses of a business (internal factors) and tries to thereby ascertain the relationship with Opportunities and Threats (factors external to the agency). Doing an annual SWOT analysis is a good pre-requisite to a marketing plan and assists with developing the appropriate goals for your travel practice.

Generally speaking, your travel practice has certain strengths that justify its existence. These strengths give rise to opportunities that your competition may not be able to challenge. On the other hand, your agency probably has weaknesses that provide an opening to your competition where they are better capable than you of taking advantage of the market. A SWOT Analysis makes each of these factors clear  and provides a guideline for approaching each in your planning. Our SWOT Analysis Worksheet will assist you in performing your own analysis. Read the rest of this entry »

Make No Mistake?

Mistakes get a bad rap.  Experience may be a rough teacher, but like the curriculum taught by Ms. Lambert (3d Grade, Knob Elementary, Princeton, West Virginia), you tend not to forget the lessons. Still she haunts my dreams.

My father consoled me with one of his aphorisms: “If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.”

When we make a mistake, we are taught to apologize.  Good advice.  If we are not smart enough to admit our mistakes and apologize for them, we implicitly  explain their origin all too clearly.  But simply apologizing for mistakes under-values their worth. Read the rest of this entry »

So what’s your story?

The psychologist Carl Jung posited that all humans share in the unconscious portion of our minds what he termed “archetypes”: images of mythological importance that we instantly recognize in stories and the events of day to day life. According to Jung’s theories, our mind responds to situations influenced by those same archetypes. Thus, in some leaders we see the “King” or “Hero” archetypes. Characters on television and in the movies are often very intentionally developed to mirror particular archetypes like the “Magician” or the “Warrior”.

This too brief and painfully inadequate introduction to Jung’s archetypes suggests that the persona of our business will be better articulated, more imaginative and forceful if we pay attention to the archetype it mirrors. The stories we read in novels, plays, movies and even our personal histories are all told in a narrative fashion, influenced by shared archetypes. Jung and his followers called these stories the “hero’s journey,” and it explains why we are captivated by a good story.

So what’s your story? Read the rest of this entry »

The Image You Project

Who are you? Why are you here?

Can you tell clients the answer to those questions without hesitation? Do you have a mission statement? Can you recite it in a meaningful, authentic way? Do you have an answer to the question: “Can you beat this internet deal I found”?

Who are you? Why are you here? Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Your USP?

A company’s USP is its Unique Selling Point – something that makes it different from all other companies of its type. Is there something about your business that is so unique that customers would do business with you based on that one quality alone? If so, you have located your USP and are on the way to better understanding how to build a smart marketing campaign based on that uniqueness. Read the rest of this entry »

Sales and Confident Enthusiasm

“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

First, a bit of good news: Everything I’m about to say applies to introverts as well as extroverts. I myself am a high-functioning introvert and find the old-school approach to sales and “closing” painful beyond belief. So don’t be concerned that I’m about to recommend you enroll in a course on winning friends and influencing people. In fact, I’m going to recommend instead you begin by doing what you do best, what only you can do: be yourself. Read the rest of this entry »

Buying on Emotion

People rationalize their buying decisions using the most precise logic. Once they have made a decision, a buyer can list all of the features that drove them to purchase. The reality, however, is that people make buying decisions in a large degree based not on logic, but on emotion – how they feel about the product and, more importantly, about you. That’s why a good travel consultant must understand both the client’s logical thinking process as well as their emotional make-up. At the end of the day, buying decisions are based on other than pure logic. Read the rest of this entry »

The Language of Obligation

I once had the good fortune to attend a couple of three day seminars conducted by Breakthrough Enterprises entitled Falling Awake. Lead by a group of exceptional individuals, Falling Awake is geared to the idea of taking full responsibility for creating the life you most want. Many of my columns are informed by the lessons I have learned as a result of the work I did with this organization. I truly believe any professional would benefit from the Falling Awake curriculum and I commend it to you with the highest of regard.

One of the most interesting and useful pieces of information I brought back home with me was their description of the power of language and the way it shapes our reality. According to the life coaches at Breakthrough, we often trap ourselves with language. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowing and Doing

We have a strange relationship with what we know. We know we should have a written business plan, and we know we should have a written budget. We know we should have a mission statement. We know we should always offer travel insurance to our clients or get a waiver.

When we hear best practices, or even the general principles of marketing, sales and customer service, seldom are we surprised. Good business advice is not often a revelation, but a matter of common sense, reminding us of what we already know.

Moving from “I know” to “I always do” can be a major undertaking. Read the rest of this entry »

Portals

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 »

Attitude

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Big

“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 »

Thanksgiving

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 »

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 »