Monthly Archives: September 2008

Posted In: Point-to-Point

This is the business we have chosen

Are these the times that try peoples’ souls?  Are these the best of times or the worst of times?  Are we living and working in one of the most difficult and challenging environments in our lifetime?

You and I both know the answers to those questions so the ‘real’ question is “What do we do now?”  How do we deal with the current market and how do we ride out the storm?

I’ve been involved in the travel industry for over forty years and have experienced countless ‘storms’ before and yes – this one is a real humdinger. But I never cease to marvel at the resilience and fortitude shown by all of the true professionals Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Your 2009 Marketing Plan: Points of Contact

TRO is devoting the next few weeks to assisting agents in developing a 2009 Marketing Plan. Follow along with us each day to gain the traction you need to make 2009 your best year ever.

Now that we know which Distribution Channels we will use in our 2009 Marketing Plan, we need to develop the tactics necessary to approach each channel successfully. Before we do, however, we have one more important step to consider – our Points of Contact. Loosely defined, our Points of Contact are those points at which a client can form an impression of our travel practice. Points of Contact range from our logo and business cards, to our Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Consider Your Email Address;;

Your email address is an important promotional tool. It is a vital component of your branding. This is true even if you are an employee in a 40 person agency. You are a brand.

The email addresses above do not mean business – they signify free, consumer oriented services. Often, the emails that come from these accounts carry superfluous advertising – the price of the “free” account. Addresses like these say that you are either new to the digital world or that this is not a professional business message.

Register your own business domain. No doubt, good, creative domain names are getting harder to find. Using your own name as a domain is a popular way of quickly finding an available domain to use: an example would be “

Each time a client or a potential client sees your professional address, your brand is reinforced. You want your clients to view you as a professional. Your email address is a part of your professional tool set. Don’t let a poorly chosen email address dull that image.

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Consider the Business Card

They get no respect. They are used for note taking and for bookmarking. Too often, they are an after-thought ordered at the last minute with little care put into their design. But business cards are important marketing tools, small paper ambassadors for your business that remain in the field constantly reminding others of your brand. It is highly likely that of all the advertising and marketing collateral you produce and use, your business card is the one piece that will be encountered and read by the most people.

Perhaps it is difficult to wax poetic about business cards, but they are important to you business. Given the size and cost, it is hard to imagine a more cost-effective tool. Business cards are your surrogate self, your persona…a stand-in, and just as with your personal appearance, first impressions count. Take care in selecting the design of your card. In the travel industry you have a wide range of options, from formal business cards to highly creative dual purpose cards that are also magnets or other novelty. Spend time examining other business cards and choose a design that you like. Let the card reflect the personality of your business, the “archetype” that defines the character of your travel practice. Take the cards you like best with you to the printer – they see a lot of cards and chances are good that the printer will have other samples and ideas for you to consider.

By all means, avoid perforated business cards that are printed on a home printer, and do not compound the error by using clip art: “do it yourself” IS NOT a message that travel agents want to convey to the public. Have a professional design your logo and have a printer produce the card on quality paper. If you have an advanced certification, put it on the card. If you belong to an industry organization, put it on the card. Make sure the card clearly establishes you as a travel agent either through your company name or a tag line. Make sure your email address and company web site, if you have one, are listed on the card along with your phone number. List your cell phone only if you are willing to answer it at all times in a professional manner.

Finally, order in a quantity sufficient to spread them liberally. Have your cards with you at all times. Keep extras in your day planner and briefcase. Hand them out to everyone you meet in a business context. Give extras to good clients to provide to others as a referral. Place them in letters that you write.

The future of your travel planning practice may well be in the cards.

Posted In: Editorial Musings

And you thought airline commission cuts were tough?

I want to take few moments to discuss a concept that will become very important to every travel professional in the coming years. It is so critical to understand this concept that failure to do so will likely result in a complete collapse of your business. I am talking about something that is, a lot of times, typically used to save someone; but this time it is something that will likely kill you if you are not prepared. Nets. Not fishing nets. Not safety nets. I am talking about net pricing from suppliers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

The plight of a newbie

I am not sure if two years experience still qualifies me as a “newbie”, but I do know that those years have provided me with a lot of questions and frustrations. Some of the old timers (or Lifers as John Frenaye calls them) are just too jaded, and as an industry, we seem to be a lot fractured.  When asked to put my peeves in writing, I came up with five of the peeviest pet peeves. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Your 2009 Marketing Plan: Understanding Your Objectives

TRO is devoting the next few weeks to assisting agents in developing a 2009 Marketing Plan. Follow along with us each day to gain the traction you need to make 2009 your best year ever.

Yesterday, we established a set of strategic objectives for 2009. Today, we want to develop a better understanding of our goals. Two of the objectives we established, gaining a net 15 total clients and growing net profit 20% work hand-in-hand. If I increase the number of clients I work with, certainly my profits should increase. Likewise, creating a niche market Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Ireland Off-Season

Everyone wants to go to Ireland, and it seems that everyone wants to go in the summer. Now don’t get me wrong. There is much good to be said about the warm days of summer on the greenest of islands. However, fall, winter, and spring offer their own special charms, as well as being amazingly affordable times to travel. The scenery is still stunning, the people are Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Vacation Express: worth a hard look

When it comes to a quality product, a lot of times, smaller is better. Better control, better knowledge, and better service all come to mind when looking for reasons to deal with a smaller supplier. A lot of times, you can get lost in the crowd when dealing with a mega-supplier. Even worse, your clients’ concerns, wants, and needs can get lost in that same crowd. There are many suppliers offering packages to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica, but few do it as well as small but mighty, 20-year old Vacation Express.

It is impossible for an agent to visit all properties in all destinations. One thing that truly sets Vacation Express apart from the other suppliers serving the Caribbean and Mexico is that most of their reservation agents have actual on-site experience with the destinations and properties they sell. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

TRO is devoting the next three weeks to assisting agents in developing a 2012 Marketing Plan. Follow along with us each day to gain the traction you need to make 2012 your best year ever.

No two marketing plans are identical. Your individual circumstances will largely dictate the final form your 2012Marketing Plan takes. However, there are a few essential elements that every plan will have. Further, a marketing plan is not a static Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

The following is Part Seven of the series “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents

Great travel agents charge research fees. As one very bright agent told me recently, “I’m not auditioning to be anyone’s travel agent.” Call it a deposit if you like. Apply it to the client’s travel if you want. Perhaps only charge new clients a fee. But charge a fee up front.

No client who has a $100 service fee with you is going to take your research and book elsewhere. Charging a fee places you in the same professional ranks Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Hooray for Hollywood!

You may have read that the voice over artist who did the majority of movie trailers passed away last month. So in tribute to Mr. LaFontaine let’s start with what could be the trailer of your dreams (please read out loud in a deep voice with strong inflection).

“In a world where travel agents are still called dinosaurs, the lure of the Internet is intoxicating, the economy depressing and ‘staycations’ has become a dreaded accepted part of our vocabulary; one travel agent stands alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

What Next?

2008 is shaping up to be a memorable year.  It‘s been the year of a truly historic political season and presidential election and the year of what turned out to be one of the most engaging Olympics ever. But those of us in the travel business have had a particularly eventful year. It reminds me of the Chinese curse: “May you have an interesting life.”

The year started with a weak economy that turned into a full-blown banking crisis. The dollar abroad  has taken a severe pounding (so to speak) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

The following is Part Six of the series “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents

Top travel agents understand that value and cost are two very different things. Cost is only a component of value. Too often, however, travel agents let the cost of a travel package become the centerpiece of their presentation. Recognize that clients will always attempt to drive immediately to the “bottom line.” Don’t let them take you there. If the value is present, cost is always a secondary consideration. Years after the client returns home from a journey, it is the experience of the travel, not the cost, that they will remember. Top travel agents will not deprive their clients of the best travel experience the client can afford.

It is also true that a “good value” means different things to different people. A top of the line luxury product is a good value Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Babies aren’t the only ones to cry for help

Babies are clueless. They cry at the drop of a hat. But as they grow they realize they are self sufficient and no longer need to cry out for help.  I am not so sure that is an entirely good thing. Three weeks ago, I fell and tore the Patellar Tendon in my leg. When it happened, I felt for sure I could get up and walk it off. Wrong. Then after my male ego was sufficiently bruised and several people dragged me to the side of the road, I felt a friend could just pick me up and take me to the doctors. Wrong again. After the ambulance ride and the emergency surgery the following morning I figured I was all set to get back into the swing of things at work. Wrong yet again.  Maybe I should have left that macho gig behind and asked for help in the first place. Yup! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

The following is Part Five of the series “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents

Top travel agents train their clients. At the outset of the relationship, these agents set expectations. They explain to their clients the services that a travel consultant performs and how the client benefits from those services. Educating the client becomes an ongoing project. By demystifying travel the agent provides the client with base knowledge from which to more confidently operate and feel empowered.

More importantly, however, a good travel consultant will also establish, up front, the role and responsibilities of the client. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

When I started in this industry, about 18 years ago, I was young and fresh out of high school with visions of traveling the world.  I enrolled myself in travel school and took a job at a local brick-and-mortar agency ready to conquer (and travel) the world. I worked from department to department until I learned the ins and outs and found my calling.  I honestly thought when I was in travel school that leisure travel would be my passion. I was wrong.  It turned out that working the corporate travel part of the business was to be my true love.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Costa Rica: no artificial ingredients

Costa Rica is a land teeming with the paradoxes of its geographical location, bridging North and South America and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The resulting climate makes it ideal for year-round travel. The forces of nature are at their spectacular best here, churning out rainforest and volcanoes, great beaches and vistas. The animals and plants of the region are of two great continents. The diversity of flora and fauna, of geography and terrain all come together here in a mere 50,895 square kilometers. The elevation of much of the country’s landmass offsets Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

The following is Part Four of the series “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents

Each of the top travel agents in our study recognized an important and subtle truth – they were not selling travel, they were selling themselves. They were selling their expertise. They were selling their knowledge and insight. They were selling their affiliations and associations, and access to their relationships.

Think about the importance of this understanding of the role Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents: Relationships

The following is Part Three of the series “The 7 Characteristics of Top Travel Agents

Top travel agents form solid relationships with  their suppliers.  These are not agents that bounce around from supplier to supplier looking for the “best deal.”  Instead, our group of elite agents found suppliers that they trusted with their clientele.  The relationships formed by the agents were developed over time and encompassed tour operators, hotel properties, local tour guides and receptives, private drivers and concierges.  The agents we interviewed went the extra step Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

No one can deny that we are living in a world where our precious natural resources are being slowly eliminated. Many of these resources are indeed the lifeblood of our industry—the Amazon and other rain forests, the majestic glaciers of Alaska, the snow capped peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the dying Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. As travel professionals, we need to be good stewards of the environment and we need to pass our stewardship along to our clients.

What is the real cost of an airline ticket? Certainly the base fare, taxes, security fees and fuel surcharges will show up on their credit card statement. But what about the cost to the environment? Is there a hidden cost to travel? What is the cost of the energy expenditure necessary to fuel an airplane, heat a hotel or power a cruise ship?
Read the rest of this entry »