Monthly Archives: May 2009

Posted In: Editorial Musings

How do you fix your mistakes?

Have you ever made a mistake? Of course, we all have! Have you ever made the same mistake again? I know I have, and I’d bet that you have as well.

Making mistakes is fine, ordinary and expected—once. But when you fail to learn from that mistake, you run the risk of wasting time, energy, and money on the exact same mistake down the road.

For example—a client calls for a price on a cruise they saw advertised on the television. You are busy and promise to call back that afternoon and you drop the ball. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

I think I prefer locusts

Ever been on a cruise ship, a FAM trip, or a trade show only to be openly recruited by one of the “so-called” online agencies?  You know what I am talking about–the travel agency in a box, pyramid scheme, be your own travel agent type deals.  I know I have.  Too many times for my liking.

I have experienced those  FAM trips where “agents” openly discuss their new MLM business, and think taking their entire family along on a trip designed for learning is proper.  I have seen the lime green shirts, car decals, buttons and laptop presentations at industry trade shows and job fairs.  Even now they seem to be invading Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Central America by Solar Tours!

The people of Central America are among the most kind and warm, and typically very friendly and eagerly welcoming to foreigners. The great diversity of culture stems not only from the differing influence of the colonial powers that once occupied the region but also from the varying native peoples that populated the area prior to discovery by European explorers. Join tour operator and consolidator Solar Tours on a trip through this remarkable land bridge. Remember, you can use 60-Second Geography articles in your own newsletters and on your web sites. Read the rest of this entry »

I truly believe it is every travel consultant’s responsibility to have first hand knowledge of the products they sell. FAMS are one of the perks and they can be a lot of fun,  but that really shouldn’t be the primary motivation for participating. Opportunities to experience what a destination, supplier or activity has to offer our clients is an invaluable tool for the travel professional; particularly if that professional has a niche. I focus on cruising and the Caribbean so naturally when those opportunities arise, I pack. And when I had the opportunity from Carnival, I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Travel Research Online has covered many topics. We have Tweeted, Facebooked, MySpaced, and blogged. Last week, our publisher said that getting physically back into the community might not be a bad idea either.  And when you are out in the community, you need to be selling yourself and your business all the time. I tend to forget that. I consider my business, Single Parent Travel, to be successful; yet I often find myself beginning to take that for granted. When I realize that, I take a step back to Salesmanship 101 and re-ground myself. And if you have not attended class in a while, there is no better place to start than with the “Elevator Pitch”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

London – by EEI Travel

London is a multicultural destination with a history stretching far into the past. Thanks to EEI Travel, the supplier sponsor of this week’s column, you can use this 60-Second Geography article in your own travel agency’s newsletters and websites. Read the rest of this entry »

I was looking at the commission report for a recent booking when it finally hit home. For the time I spent on this client’s booking, I would be making the equivalent of $6.50 an hour. I made the immediate decision that I would begin charging a consulting fee before an initial discussion about travel plans. I have not collected a deposit towards a booking since mid March, and frankly I have nothing to lose.

I admit that I am scared to turn away business in this economy, but I go back to that thought of having nothing to lose and the knowledge that I am worth more than $6.50/hr. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

There is one over riding complaint that I hear from almost every agent this year. You are frustrated with the reduction in commissions, whether due to cuts by suppliers, the impact of clients buying cheaper trips, or the rise in Non Commissionable Fares (NCFs).  Despite seeing an increase in the number of policies sold this year, I am still baffled by the overall sales closing ratio for many agencies remaining so low.  In 2007 the United States Travel Insurance Association (USTIA) found that travel agents only sold third-party travel insurance 30% of the time–30%!

In today’s market it is remarkable to see the amount of insurance commission that travel agents still leave on the table despite their business challenges. You face shrinking commissions, increasing NCFs, and concerns about the financial instability of many tour suppliers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

As a business owner, I can guarantee that at some point (or points) you will make bad decisions. You need to realize that we are not perfect, and these imperfections only exist to make us stronger business people.

As you forge your way through establishing and growing your travel business—be it home based, online, or brick and mortar—there really are only two hard and fast rules that you must follow.. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Last week, I discussed how to find viable group business, I briefly mentioned that you need to be prepared before approaching groups with a proposal. So now we’re going to cover two critical components of preparation:

1.    Knowing supplier group policies and how to work with them
2.    Having a group contract Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Outposts

Adventure in Costa Rica? Take Your Pick!

Travel for most means adventure.  Hop on a plane, venture to a destination never-before experienced and partake in activities only dreamed about previously.  Costa Rica as a travel destination is one that guarantees adventure in numerous forms, whatever the desire;  hike a volcano, fly like Tarzan (almost) through the treetops, surf amongst alligators or spend a day sport fishing.   Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: 60-Second Geography

Barbados – by Luxury Retreats!

Barbados is the easternmost of the islands of the Caribbean and a popular vacation spot for Europeans as well as North Americans. The “garden of the West Indies” offers more expansive vistas and varied landscapes than many of the other islands in the region. Travel Agent supplier Luxury Retreats offers the finest villas on Barbados, so join us there in style!

Remember that travel agents can use 60-Second Geography articles on their websites and in their newsletters! Read the rest of this entry »

In previous columns I wrote about my new niche, wine tours and  finding and utilizing a mentor. So far so good. Now, comes the hard part. The “M” word-marketing.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses. While I am good at selling the experience, adding value and servicing my clients, marketing has always been a challenge. I equate marketing with going to the dentist both necessary and painful. For me marketing is frustrating, expensive and time consuming. It is an intangible and the results are hard to measure.

Where do I begin?  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Editorial Musings

Ship sinks…lips, not pirates to blame

We have all heard the cautionary tale about loose lips sinking ships. In this Internet 2.0 age, it is even more important to keep that axiom in mind. Between Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs, texting, YouTube, and whatever the next thing to come down the pike may be; we are in a precarious position and if we are not careful, our ship may indeed be sunk! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

PR Persistence

Local recognition as being a travel expert is a goal that most good travel agents seek. As a public relations tactic, newspaper articles, quotes and mentions can result in a rush of new business. Consumers have an affinity for using a travel consultant that the media sees worthy of a mention. Many of my articles in this column have recommended the development of a good PR program as a vital, even indispensible part of a solid marketing plan. A positive mention in a local or national source is better than the most expensive advertising because it carries with it an implicit third-party endorsement of your expertise. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

In the current economy sitting in the office and waiting for the phone to ring is about as effective as turning over rocks to look for new business.  In order to be successful, travel agents need to hunt for business and find ways to work smarter, not harder.  Increasing your group business can be the answer.  But many agents don’t know where to look for viable groups.

Travel agents are literally surrounded by a gold mine of potential groups.  But you need to leave your office to seek them out. Remember there are always some do’s and don’ts. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Point-to-Point

Keep America Traveling

Can you afford to pay $988 more in taxes each year?  Whether you answer yes or no, there are probably other things you could be doing with that money. This amount is exactly the premium that every U.S. household would be forced to pay without the $115 billion in tax revenue that the travel and tourism industry generates nationally.

Recently, travel has been in trouble, and that’s bad news for our city, our economy and our workers. The weak economy has led some individuals and families to curtail or eliminate their vacation plans. To make matters worse, the actions of a few high-profile companies Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Client-Centric Credentials

Establishing credentials with your clients is one of the best ways to ensure that they look to you for consultation. Consumers go to accountants with a CPA, to physicians with an MD and even their massage therapist has the designation of “LMT” (Licensed Massage Therapists). These credentials speak to insider knowledge, expertise and authority and justify the economics of each profession. As a travel consultant, there are opportunities to accomplish similar credentials with the Travel Institute, CLIA and others.  Each gold star on your resume is a marketing opportunity.

While the travel profession’s designations are not as well known to the public, (why they are not is another story), they have a definite marketing cache. Additionally, fam trips, training courses, and even your involvement with consortia, franchises and other industry organizations speak to your professionalism. Make sure your own marketing boasts your accomplishments, your involvement with the industry at a professional level, and that you share the results of your fam trips with your clientele upon your return in a simple letter, postcard, or more elaborately, in a newsletter.

This 365 Marketing and Sales Tip is provided free to the travel agent community by:Click Here!

However, it’s not enough merely to accumulate and publicize your accomplishments.  To do so is the same as simply placing a long list of “features” on your marketing collateral.

Posted In: The 365 Guide

Social Media – A Cautionary Tale

Every now and then it is worthwhile to remember that even the most interesting and dynamic of marketing tactics can go wrong. All companies, including travel agencies, need to erect the appropriate safeguards to prevent an errant employee from doing damage to their brand through some form of social interaction, whether online or in the real world. Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the plight of Domino’s Pizza which last month had to combat the adverse publicity that arose when two employees videotaped themselves in a Domino’s franchise abusing Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Supplier Profile

Caravan Tours – a Proud Heritage

Travel agents that have used Caravan Tours will tell you that their clients come home happy.  In these days, that means alot. There is a great comfort in knowing that your clients are well cared for and are in good hands. Caravan Tours is one of the oldest tour companies in the United States. Caravan started selling tours in 1952, and has remained under the same ownership since inception.

Caravan’s first tour was a 40 day, 11 country European Grand Tour with transportation on a transatlantic ocean liner– all for $595. In fact, Caravan has many historic firsts: first European tour operator with air conditioned busses, first tour operator on transatlantic jets Read the rest of this entry »

The light bulb finally went on.  I have begun to realize that I allow potential clients to “pick my brains” and not give them a reason to book with me.  I have stopped hiding behind “how can they do this to me” and now understand that not all people think like me.  Certainly I would never gather information from someone like me and book elsewhere.  Well, while I would never do such a thing I have come to accept that the majority of people in this world will.  Thus the light bulb is now on. Read the rest of this entry »