I have found that Thanksgiving is a perfect time to spend some time reflecting on all the things for which I have to be thankful. I always start with the fact that I am still enjoying good health. This has become even more important now that I am in my early 70s. Then I reflect on how wonderful it was that I have such a great lady in my life–someone that enjoys cruising as much as I do. This also seems more important now that we have more time to get away on cruises. I still find a way to justify my cruises as part of my continuing travel education, as I can come back and share my experiences with the travel agents that use my agent mentoring program.
My next thanks is for another important part of my life, the fact that I got involved with selling the greatest vacation in the world–cruises, way back in 1987. Selling cruises became my passion and was the driving force behind my opening 16 travel agencies in a short period of four years. While it was a lot of hard work, I can honestly say it was worth it, as it has provided me a lifestyle that very few people have had the chance to enjoy.
People sometime feel I am bragging when I tell them I have been on 247 cruises over the last 27 years. And, maybe I am a little, but my real point is that by staying focused on selling lots of cruises (over $20 million a year) I was afforded the opportunity to go on lots of cruises. My motto was “Working Hard Lets’ Larry Play Hard.” This fact also causes me to always give thanks to all the wonderful cruise line executives that I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. I will always be thankful for their friendship and support.
I hope by this point you have started to think about the things you should be thankful for in your life. When I had my large agency in Miami from 1990 to 2003, I even went so far as to send out Thanksgiving cards to my top clients and my main cruise suppliers. I found they responded more to them than the traditional Holiday card in December. You might just try it his year.
Professional Travel Agents, Never Retire
The fact that I am still passionate about the cruise industry leads me to the reality that I will never retire from this industry. I still find great fulfilment in continuing to provide live workshops and online training for KHM Travel Group. By working with this major host agency, I feel I am paying it forward by sharing much of what I learned from other industry experts that came before me and provided my training when I broke into the travel industry.
I was fortunate to be actively involved with Joel Abels when he was putting on all the Travel Trade/CLIA Cruise-A-Thons conferences. In looking back, I was a little surprised to find that I had had actually presented 35 workshops over a twelve year period from 1988 to 2000. I remember being asked why I was giving so much of my time and I always responded that I was getting much more that what I was giving. The cruise industry is very unique as so many successful people share so much of their success with anybody who will listen. If your goal is to become a better cruise seller, then you need to attend at least one major cruise conference per year. I would start with the annual CLIA Cruise3Sixty Conference in Fort Lauderdale from April 22nd to 26th. If you can’t make it, then try to attend one of the other great cruise conferences next year, you will be glad you did.
Now Is Your Time To Shine
Let me try and tie the above comments back to you and your future in the travel industry. My larger point is that all the cruise education that you learn over the years will still be useful if you start to think about retirement and becoming more part-time. While there might be a lot of new ships, the fact remains that knowing how to sell them will remain key.
For those of you who are still new to this industry, a very important CLIA cruise industry statistic was released in 1986– roughly 93% of North American residents had NEVER CRUISED! And here we are 28 years later with hundreds of fabulous new ships; and that number has only dropped to around 80%! The point is if you spend some time learning how to sell cruises; and better yet, take one yourself, you will know more about a cruise vacation than 80% of your clients and prospects. That is a HUGE advantage for you.
My closing message is clear–don’t even think about retiring from such a great industry. If you spend the right amount of time learning how to sell cruises you will be cruising for the rest of your life. Retirement (as it were) is not too bad. I now enjoy choosing which clients I want to help, while always looking for my own next travel opportunity. Stay young. Stay in. Forever hone your skills. You will be glad you did.
Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 17 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million. Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LarryNormanCTC@gmail.com