Traditional Travel Agent Seeks Most Valuable Partner
I married my husband right after college. Eighteen years and two great kids later, we often look back and marvel at how we managed to make such great choices at such a young age, but I think I already know the secret. We both knew to look past the surface and focus on things like values, priorities, and character.
It works when choosing a spouse (that’s how I avoided the party-hearty frat boys and ended up with my dependable, family-focused hubby) but it’s equally true in business. When we choose the suppliers we do business with, we need to look beyond the surface and examine the company’s core values, its way of doing business, and its overall “fit” with our business model.
So what does this mean in real life? It means that when I’m looking at which suppliers to use, I really don’t care about things like flashy brochures and agent perks and benefits. I want to know that the supplier understands my needs and wants to be my partner in growing both of our businesses.
I prefer to work with agent-focused companies. Its fine if they sell direct to consumers, but that should not be the main thrust of their business. And they should operate according to agent-friendly policies (things like courtesy holds, optional net pricing, commission protection, and more.)
I look for suppliers that make it easy to do business with them. They have simple but powerful online booking engines, responsive customer service lines, and knowledgeable reservations agents.
I want to work with suppliers with a clearly-defined focus. Those who know their niche inside and out (geographic, demographic, etc.), and who can share that specialized knowledge with me in ways that help my clients.
Whenever possible, I like to develop personal relationships. I want to be able to call the same person each time, and to know that he or she has a vested interest in helping me make my clients happy.
I look for suppliers who invest in agent education, and not just with 10-minute webinars and meaningless “certifications”. I want structured training programs, educational seminars, and FAMs.
Stability is important to me. I look for suppliers who have a long track record, and who belong to respected industry organizations like USTOA (which also means there’s some insurance in case they do run into financial trouble.)
Finally, yes, I do prefer suppliers who reward agents with lucrative commissions. If I’m taking the time to qualify my client and sell your product, I want to be commissioned on the whole thing, and not just some arbitrary portion that you deem to be commissionable.
Am I unreasonable or overly picky? I don’t think so. I have some favorite suppliers who meet almost all of these criteria, and I truly enjoy working with them. I know there are more out there, too, and I look forward to discovering new partners in the future.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what criteria other agents are using when choosing their supplier partners. Be sure to post your feedback below!
Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com