A few weeks ago, I was up on stage in Las Vegas, having been invited by Travel Research Online to give the opening presentation to a robust crowd of independent travel advisors at the Home-Based Agent Forum. While much of what I told them is second-nature to me by now (after 10 years as a luxury travel specialist), preparing for my speech was a terrific way to remind myself of key and basic tenets to success in this business.
I shared my own personal story with the audience and told them how I was sitting where they were just 10 years ago. I had made the decision to transition from a career in travel journalism to a home-based travel advisor specializing in luxury travel and have never looked back since. That’s not to say it’s been an easy and stress-free ride; in the travel business, challenges are a given and that’s what keeps it interesting.
From the start, I never worried about what other “traditional” travel agencies were doing as I was never intending on being traditional. Rather than worry about what the typical storefront travel firms were doing in 2005, I focused on how I could reach a new generation of luxury travelers. My goal was always to target high-end consumers who likely never had used a travel advisor before, and this allowed me to stay focused on the younger generation of entrepreneurs and executives looking for someone knowledgeable and smart to manage this important part of their life.
By staying true to that vision, my goal of building a clientele primarily by referral has come true. Every day that I take amazing care of one new client turns into a day that I am likely to get another referral to another like-minded luxury traveler needing help with their future travel plans.
Today was a perfect example: While we are in the throes of the busy summer travel season and everyone is stretched a bit thin making sure that all of our existing clients are very well looked after, I’ve also seen no slowdown in referrals and new business requests. I take this as a clear sign that my advice to the crowd was spot on: Take excellent care of your clients and they will multiply in the form of referrals.
I also stressed the importance of building your own identity and brand; I did so via social media as these channels were easy, free, and fun to use. Within a few years of Twitter launching as a social media platform, I had quickly established myself as the “go-to luxury travel advisor for high-end travelers worldwide.” My following at last count was nearly 70,000 and I’m now working on growing my Instagram following, as this has clearly become the social network of choice for high-end travelers who love to post their own travel photos and view those of others out there exploring the world.
By sharing your own photos and stories with your followers, you have a captive audience of potential clients who will see firsthand how much you know about your subjects, and this often leads to luxury travel sales. Don’t be afraid to share what you know on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram – just be careful not to attempt hard sales in these mediums. This is a very important point as people will inherently reach out to you if they sense you are an expert in your field but they will likely be turned off by a hard sales pitch.
There is so much opportunity in the luxury travel business, and it’s always important to think about where you are starting, what your goals are, and where you want to be in a few years. As I stood up in front of hundreds of agents and then spoke with many of them afterwards, it was so rewarding to hear the words “inspiring” and “motivating” as feedback for my presentation. I can’t pretend to be the world’s best salesperson nor have I been in the luxury travel business forever, but if even a few people out there are motivated and inspired by my story, that’s all the motivation I need to stay the course and stay focused on the basics to continue growing a successful luxury travel business. It comes down to this: Take great care of your clients, establish a solid brand, and get people talking about you rather than worrying about the competition.
Stacy Small is the president/founder of Elite Travel International, an LA-based Virtuoso travel firm. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @elitetravelgal.