With 2015 now in full swing, what are you doing to promote yourself and your (hopefully) growing luxury travel business? There is so much more to being a successful luxury travel advisor than many people are aware of (as I continue to learn on a daily basis).
In addition to being a natural salesperson (which many of us who have chosen luxury travel as a second career are anything but!), you need to be an amazing self-marketer, a so-called expert on pretty much everything related to travel, and you need to have a solid existing and growing circle of clients. Sounds simple enough, right?
Anyone who has chosen to sell luxury travel for a living knows that it’s a challenging task. It’s no different than being in the financial planning or real estate business, at the high end of the spectrum, as we are dealing with a demographic that is time-sensitive, has high expectations, and is typically part of the “IWWIWWIWI” (I want what I want when I want it) generation.
When I am asked by my newer independent contractors how I suggest they increase their client base, my first tip is always to start with people you know. Whether this means your circle of Facebook friends, your childhood friends who now have the resources to travel well, or your relatives and their friends, it is always a great idea to start promoting yourself as a luxury travel expert to people in your comfort zone. It is a great way to build your skills with people who trust you and who you can wow to the point that they will feel comfortable referring their family and friends to you.
This is truly how I started when I launched my business 10 years ago. I was living in the Palm Beach, Florida area and I was involved in a number of charitable organizations. Social media did not yet exist, but I got creative (for that time) and launched a Constant Contact newsletter to let my travel-minded friends and acquaintances know what I was up to. I had recently made a career switch from travel journalist to a luxury travel business owner and the only way people would know this was if I told them.
I found it extremely beneficial to get involved in a few local charities, as this was a great way to meet people in the community and network with them at local fundraising events. This idea was a great one back in 2005, and it is still super-helpful to me today 10 years later. I was just back in Palm Beach last week, as I am still very much involved with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (for personal reasons, having lost my mom last year after her 18-year battle).
The relationships I built nearly 10 years ago are still going strong, and taking the time to attend a private dinner for supporters at the Lauder estate and the annual Hot Pink Palm Beach luncheon at The Breakers continues to be a fulfilling way for me to grow my circle of potential luxury travel clients. Since luxury travel is something everyone loves to talk about, it is always interesting for me to tell people what I do for a living. At the dinner, I sat next to top executives from JP Morgan who want to introduce a few of their clients to me, as well as the founder of a high-end event planning company who needs assistance in the hotels/travel arena.
I walked away from these charity events last week feeling not only fulfilled for being part of the efforts to raise over $600,000 for the organization so close to my heart, but with a renewed excitement about the ongoing growth of my company that can occur when I attend events with like-minded, interesting people.
It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday challenges of finding enough time to take care of our existing clients, and attend events thrown for us by suppliers, while trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I would encourage you to make sure you build in enough time for finding an organization that offers you both networking opportunities and an outlet to channel your passion for helping others. It may turn out, while helping others you also pick up a new business opportunity or two. There’s nothing wrong with mixing work and play!
Stacy Small is the president/founder of Elite Travel International, an LA-based Virtuoso travel firm. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elitetravelgal.