Last month told you about my difficulties with a new tour bus vendor. In my frantic juggling act I somehow forgot that terms of a contract can change at the drop of a hat. I let an unwritten deadline slip by and the vendor notified me that they had raised the rate for transporting my cruise group from Baltimore to Norfolk. This lapse on my part had the potential to cost my fledgling agency an additional $500 dollars and reduce my already meager margins. My group was scheduled to sail on October 26th and I had no time to make other arrangements to transfer my group. Needless to say I was stressed but I wasn’t prepared to give up. This was the inaugural trip for our Norfolk cruise program. We’ve done several cruises out of Baltimore but this was our opportunity to launch LK Cruises – Cruise Norfolk.
The first step was to contact the sales rep and let him know that it was my intention to use them exclusively for our local home port cruises. I let him know my business plan included quarterly cruises out of both Baltimore and Norfolk and I fully expected to have groups of at least the same size. Next I explained that as a small agency our margins are tight like many small businesses an increase of that size was very difficult for us to absorb. I also told him we could not in good conscience, pass the increase on to the client. I explained that working with us would go a long way toward fostering a true preferred relationship with us as we grew our cruise business. I suggested he discuss it with his manager and sent him over a PDF file of one of our marketing pieces featuring the drive-cruise market we are cultivating. I mentioned he might want to share that with his manager. It worked!. On Monday I received a new contract for the transfer of my group at the original cost with warm regards from my new most favorite sales rep Terri.
You can probably imagine the optimism that carried over with me on that bus to Norfolk the last week in October. Thirty passengers joined us on very first Norfolk cruise group. Some boarded our mini-coach in Aberdeen, MD while others joined us when the coach stopped in DC. Several came down from Brooklyn, NY and Philadelphia. Two flew into Norfolk from Dallas, TX and one determined soul flew in from St. Louis. The bus passengers were treated to videos of their upcoming cruise and their LK Cruises monogrammed goodie bags had information about the specific itinerary, some tips for safe enjoyable cruising and a gourmet snack for the ride down. The two drivers were personable and professional. The party bus was a success by all indications and it wasn’t necessary for me to dip into my contingency funds to pay for it.
I learned a lot from this experience. 1–Travel consulting is my profession and building relationships with current and potential clients is essential; but building relationships with vendor sales reps is no less essential to the growth and success of my travel practice. 2–The devil is in the details. Check all contracts for what they say and twice as carefully for what they don’t say.
Nia Frieson is the owner of LK Cruises and Tours, LLC based in Washington, DC. For more information, you can contact Nia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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