It is hard to believe that we are about to enter the final quarter of 2011! My business partner and I are embarking on adding two new divisions to our business next year, so we have been knee deep in 2012 goal setting. While I’ve been investigating and researching various concepts and ideas, I got to thinking that the travel industry is very similar to the investment world. In essence, you may start out with one investment vehicle, and eventually you want to spread your risk, so you begin investing in other types of investments. Instead of simply having a mutual fund, you may also invest in CDs, individual stock purchases, hedge funds and gold.
I see the travel business in the same way. It’s imperative for long-term longevity to do your core business right, but in order to spread your risk and also make money during the times when one area of your business may not be at its peak, having diversification can be the difference between a successful and profitable business, versus a business that is floundering and stagnant.
There are a lot of travel professionals that have been successful in operating their travel agencies, as well as branching out into other profitable, travel related avenues. Some agencies that were simply leisure travel have added corporate travel to the mix (or vice versa); other agents and/or agencies have taken their IT skills and parlayed them into successful businesses, whereby they still have a segment of their business that is travel centric; however, they have increased their revenue by offering other travel professionals information and expertise on technology related products, services, and information.
Obviously, there are risks associated with taking this route, because some potential clients could begin to think you are spreading yourself too thin, and in their minds’ eye, they will be the ones to suffer from your over extension. Also, it is important that the side businesses somehow lend themselves to your travel business. There should be some linkage or synergy between them, so that you can successfully market those products and services to your existing clients and/or to other travel professionals. That is not to say that you could not start a successful business completely separate from the travel profession; however, there may come a point and time where the resources, time, and energy may take their toll, and a decision will need to be made in respect to which business you are going to retain and which one you are going to give up.
This market can be tough and is loaded with competition, but as long as you stay current, flexible, and in tune with what your clients are asking, there is more than enough business for everyone. Most of our industry leaders (Richard Earls, amongst others) are constantly providing us with the tools, information and resources to make a success of this business. Opportunities can come up at the oddest times and places, so you should be networking; asking your clients what they would like to see more or less of; keeping abreast of all of the industry changes (or as much as reasonably possible); remembering your unique selling propositions, and adjusting your business plan (yes, the one that may be collecting dust) on a constant basis. I can speak for myself when I say that our business plan has changed at least half a dozen times during our short time in this industry, and I can guarantee, it will continue to change as long as our industry continues to change too.
In wrapping up this year, and looking towards 2012, what changes have you decided to make for your agencies? For newer agents, have you been able to identify a niche market yet? And for the more seasoned agents, have you adjusted or changed any of your strategies in this new travel landscape? Please leave a comment!
Chanté Owens is co-owner of Chicks That Trip, and is an independent affiliate of Incentive Connection Travel. Chicks That Trip specializes in group travel, culinary & wine experiences, and major sporting event packages to the UK, France, Italy, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and select Southern Caribbean Islands. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her website at www.chicksthattrip.com and her blog penned under the name, That Chick Té at http://chicksthattrip-lobbybarconfessions.blogspot.com/