By the time this column hits the press, I’ll be in attendance at my fourth professional conference in three months. What is it about fall and travel shows? I thought I’d take a minute to reflect on some of the provocative thoughts I have rolling around in my head as a result of the classes I’ve attended and speakers I’ve heard this year. Attending a travel conference is exhilarating, motivating and exhausting; a lot like a good vacation. So, here’s the 5 things I’ve learned on my Autumn “vacations”:
- I should make sure my BDM is my BFF. A conference is an excellent place to meet and check in with your sales reps–and it is so worth it. These people make money if I make money, thus, they are highly motivated to assist me. They offer brochures, co-op dollars, presentations, and perks for your clients. Plus they can act as your partner for collaborations. Basically, they are tasked to stand by the agent. In return, I can make sure I am loyal to my preferred suppliers. It’s better to have a few awesome friends than to have a room full of acquaintances.
- I can learn more from my peers than from the presenters. At most conferences my time is booked with meetings, meals, presenters and trade shows with little time for networking. The last two years at my host agency conference, I’ve blocked out time to meet with a group of agents to discuss what we’ve heard, what we liked or didn’t like, and to share what we are doing that is working. This session alone is worth the price of the conference. If you are home-based, getting together with other people who do exactly what you do is the most satisfying of all experiences and you can learn so much.
- Don’t be afraid to sell luxury travel products or to seek affluent clients. There is a new post-recession definition of luxury. Luxury travel today is more focused on the experiences, the bucket list mountain top experiences as opposed to the stuffed shirt, chauffeur driven ones. Affluent travelers appreciate someone who works hard and delivers value. They may not be endlessly wealthy, but they have the time and the money to have an incredible, once in a lifetime experience. This isn’t scary.
- Social media is here to stay and it’s not too much for me to handle. Creating a calendar to schedule topics and posts can help me to coordinate all the channels. Everyone has their favorite social media platform and using them all is more likely to reach everyone. Many topics can be simultaneously tweeted and shared on Facebook and also posted on Instagram and expanded in a blog entry. I attended an excellent session that described how Delta airlines totally changed their customer service ratings through their Twitter channel, @DeltaAssist. Being able to solve passengers’ problems in real time in a courteous and sometimes humorous way, in public view, was a game changer for the airline that was previously wrought with complaints, thanks to Twitter. Perhaps one of the channels will be a game changer for me.
- I should stop assuming clients are buying vacations on price. In fact, Funjet Vacations reported on a survey where they asked people why they used a travel professional and there were 5 answers…
- for their expertise
- for their experience
- to save time
- to add value
- because it improved their confidence in the booking process.
No one mentioned price. As an agent, I should take this lead and talk to clients more about the experience, their dreams, their bucket list and their favorite travel photo or memory and less about the price.
These are the thoughts swirling in my overloaded mind. What have you learned on your Autumn “vacations?” Will you make serious changes in your business based on a conference you attended?
Pam Hallberg is a travel consultant who enjoys arranging food and wine themed tours and cruises. She owns her own home-based business, Hallberg Travel & Tours: Creating Tasteful Travel Experiences.