Since I agreed to do the “Travel Agent Diaries,” It has been an epiphany for me. Writing the diaries has forced me to look at myself, my business and what is broken. It has been, to put it bluntly, painful, frustrating and just plain depressing at times. I have come to the realization that some of what I have been doing hasn’t worked and that I need to reinvent, reinvigorate and just plain do it better.
The nail in the coffin was when a “client” strung me along for over a month wanting quotes. First he wanted to go to Cabo. Gave him a quote. Then he wanted Puerto Vallarta, gave him a quote. Then Canucn. Gave him a couple quotes on properties he saw on line. He said he was going to book with me. When I called him to get his credit card, you guessed it. “sorry I booked online. “
After that fiasco I am now working on retainer. I am tired of giving away my expertise and spending countless hours of my time on people who end up booking elsewhere. The retainer will be applied to final payment.
The second decision I have made is to narrow my focus and marketing. I need to have a niche and I have decided on wine tours. Right now I have a huge butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach because this is way out of my comfort zone especially in a recession. It scares me. As I move forward into this new niche I am taking baby steps including teaching a class in wine destinations and learning everything about my niche. I am in the process of partnering with suppliers who either specialize in wine tours or have specific itineraries built around wine. Being an independent person with a stubborn streak a mile long, I am actually asking for help and advice. To my surprise I have found that suppliers, tour operators and my peers are willing to help—all that is needed is for you to make the connection and ask. Everyone wants to be a part of your success.
In addition, to my new niche. I am going back to the basics. Training, training and more training including destination training. Completing my ACC/MCC, studying for my CTA. And, taking advantage of supplier training and product webinars. All of which will help me to become the expert.
The third decision I have made is to be me. I am my best asset. I am my brand. Somewhere along the line I was trying to be everything. It was not working. I was not being true to myself. Nor, was it helping my bottom line.
I am taking a hard look at my marketing. I want to know what works and what doesn’t and am implementing a solid marketing plan. I have set goals for myself. I still can’t shake the butterfly feeling but hopefully, with practice and a plan to follow, it will get easier.
Any advice, comments or suggestions are welcome and appreciated.
Mary Stephan is the President of Allons Travel based in Powell, OH. For more information, you can contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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