An Interview with Nolan Burris | Travel Research Online


An Interview with Nolan Burris


PictureNolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

TRO : Let’s first talk a bit about your newest passion: Social Media. There are so many platforms to choose from the well known, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, to the lesser known like Naymz, Google Buzz, FourSquare, Plaxo. Do you recommend the agent community pick one or two or try to be EVERYWHERE?

NB: Great question!  First, think about the demographic of your target audience (not necessarily who you deal with now, but who you WANT).  Facebook has an older user base; most are women 55 and up.  Twitter has a much younger demographic with most 35 or younger.  Next, think about your marketing style.  Facebook and Twitter are more about being informal, personal and fun.  LinkedIn is all about business to business networking so a more formal tone is better.  If you are going to be “everywhere” don’t do or say the same things in all of them.  Each slice of the social media pie has its own flavor and appeal, so go with the flow.

TRO: Share a few things you see agents doing right with social media.

NB: With Facebook, more and more agents are beginning to understand the importance of groups.  Few people will gather enough “friends” to have much impact.  But, a handful of clever postings in a discussion group for wine lovers can expose you to millions.  I’m also seeing a lot more agents using Twitter properly.  It’s not about the volume of “tweets” but the quality of them.  Twitter is most definitely all about FUN and it looks like more agents are getting that message.

TRO : How about what they are doing wrong?

NB: The biggest mistake of all with social media is to treat it like traditional marketing.  NOBODY logs on to Facebook or Twitter or any other social net to marketed at.  They go there to socialize.  If all you do is fill up my Twitter screen with one ad after another, I’ll stop following or “de-friend” you in a heartbeat.  Social media is about PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE, not faceless corporation mass-blasting.  Stop thinking “promotion” and start thinking “talking to the neighbor over the back yard fence.”

TRO: Would you like to see the TA community invest in Facebook business pages or do you think getting involved in groups a better use of time?

NB: A business page is a great idea, but too many agencies try to make it a duplicate of their website.  Think of it more as a place to send people when you post about cruises or tours using your personal profile.  It seems most business pages I see are boring, full of advertising, lack personality… in other words.  Ask yourself:  “would I find it interesting?”

TRO: Facebook allows for targeted advertising for either a business page, or an event. How can agents convert those new fans into sales?

NB: Facebook “social ads” are amazing.  You can target the ad to any gender, marital status, age group, geographical area, and most importantly: by keywords.  The biggest mistake I see is an ad that just links to an agency’s website home page.  Instead, if you’re advertising an Alaskan cruise, it should directly link to the page on your site where they will find the details on it!  Don’t make it difficult for a prospect to find and buy the thing you’re advertising.  Advertising for “fans?”  It’s a good first step, but only if you then have a strategy for what to do with your fan base. 

TRO: Where do blogs fit into the social media mix?

NB: Ah, the most misunderstood piece of the pie.  Everyone wants a blog, but too many people just turn it into a clone of their website.  Popular blogs are not about selling stuff.  They are about fun, interesting or engaging information.  The most popular ones are also written from a PERSON’S perspective, not an impersonal company’s.  Think of a blog as you do a newsletter.  Sure you can toot your company’s horn now and then, but if it’s boring and uninteresting, nobody will read it, let alone take the next step to develop a business relationship with you.  

TRO: Let’s touch a bit on your other favorite subject, professional fees. How can you convince an agent who says no one will ever pay a fee to give it a try? Where can an agent look for a client that WILL pay a professional fee?

NB: Hallelujah!  This is definitely my favorite subject.  Why?  Because I’ve seen fees work miracles for both agencies and their clients.  Will people pay a fee?  Of course, but only if you give them something worth paying for.  That is NOT a booking!  

Where you can you find people that will pay the fee?  ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE!  I’ve seen huge fees in every conceivable market, niche, small town, big city, corporate, leisure, ethic specialty and more. Its fees are for advice, expertise, support, service, supplier relationships, pulling strings, representing your client and so much more.  Too many agents still think the fee is for the cruise or tour.  No way!  The fee is for you!  Most folks think using a travel agent is a luxury now.  Fantastic!  You just have been as much or more of a luxury experience than the tour or cruise.  I could go on about this one for hours, but I know I have to keep it short.  

TRO: Finally, how does a failed musician from Tulsa, Oklahoma end up in the beautiful city of Vancouver? Take our readers through the dime tour of your personal journey!

NB: Correction: a failed musician from a TRAILER PARK in Tulsa, Oklahoma!  Well, after starving trying to pay the bills playing jazz saxophone, I traded in the sheet music for airline tickets.  I started as a corporate agent way back in 1978.  I eventually did it all: leisure, cruises, incentives, groups, etc.  I even had my own agency for a while.  In 1983 IBM released the PC and in 1984 Apple released the Mac.  I was hooked.  I stayed in travel but began to focus on technology within it.  

After working for the Uniglobe Travel franchise HQ in Chicago for several years, I was offered the position of V.P. of Information Technologies for Uniglobe in their home office in Vancouver.  I jumped at the chance.  A few years later, I started my own business to preach the gospel of “wow service,” ethics and integrity in business, and my pet project (and book): Visionistics – The Process of Success.  …available on and in audio form on iTunes – hint, hint, hint! 😉

If you could do it all over again, what would you change? Is there anything you wish you could go back in time and knock yourself in the head and say “Don’t do that!?”


NB: I wish I had realized much sooner that travel agents are, or at least should be, a product in and of themselves.  The cruise, the tour, the ticket or whatever – they are ALL available anywhere.  Only the agent is a unique product.  It’s up to them to make it an amazing experience.  Oh!  I also wish I had written my book a few years earlier!


Chuck Flagg is a regular contributor to TRO and an independent owner/operator of Cruise Holidays in Canton, GA. His website is He can be found on Twitter @theflaggagency

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