Author Archives: Ann Petronio

There are 14 articles by Ann Petronio published on this site.

Books for the Travel Consultant

I am excited about the new “TRO Tips” column, because we have seen lots of great articles about software, hardware, and all sorts of 21st century stuff that’s all a bit overwhelming to me. I’m happy to have someone else explain those things to me, because technology is really not something that excites me personally.

So what tool or tip am I qualified to write about?  Books!

I’m a voracious reader, and my nightstand usually includes a good mix of travel magazines, trade publications, and novels — but I also like to include business books. They don’t have to be specific to our industry (in fact, most of them aren’t), but I find that they all contain at least some small kernel of wisdom Read the rest of this entry »

Preferred Booking Methods

As travel consultants, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about how our clients like to interact with us when planning their vacations: Do they prefer to do it themselves online? Should we have booking engines on our web sites to facilitate that?  Should they have to speak with us in person, or on the phone, so that we can provide more personalized service and advice? Is it best if they can get some basic information from our web site but then call us to handle the transaction?

I think it’s interesting that we spend far less time thinking about how we, as agents, like to interact with suppliers when planning a client’s vacation. This came up as a topic for discussion around the dinner table at a recent meeting of my local NACTA chapter, and it was fascinating to hear all the different viewpoints.  Some of us had a clear preference for online Read the rest of this entry »

When to say “No”

I had that “pit of the stomach” feeling again the other day. And I don’t mean the mid-afternoon growling when you realize you forgot to eat lunch. I’m talking about the sinking feeling you get when you’re about waist-deep in a vacation proposal that you realize you never should have taken on in the first place.

You know the ones. The time-sucking, headache-inducing, no-win pieces of business that do nothing but bring you down. We all can recognize them AFTER the fact, so why is it so hard to avoid them in the first place?

I’m no expert, but I can tell you the process that I go through.

The first step is recognizing the projects that you should not agree to take on. When that phone rings, Read the rest of this entry »

How important is response time?

If you’re a firefighter or an ambulance driver, your response time is vitally important.  And it had better be measured in minutes, and not hours.

But what about travel consultants? For us, I think it probably depends on the situation. If you’re a corporate agent dealing with clients who need to change their plans from moment to moment, you probably need to be very accessible and responsive. A leisure agent, on the other hand, generally has a little more time to respond and react. But how long is too long?  Read the rest of this entry »

Virtual Expos – The Real Thing?

I recently “attended” a virtual travel expo conducted by a major wholesaler, and I have to admit it left me feeling flat. Try as I might, I just can’t get excited about these online shows.

I understand all the arguments in support of virtual events (cost savings, time savings, wider reach, the ability to archive the content for future viewing, etc.) but if the experience itself is lacking, then no amount of savings is going to make it worth my time and attention. It reminds me of the question that many of us pose to our clients – “How cheap does a bad vacation have to be to make it worthwhile?”

I should be careful to say that I’m talking specifically about virtual expos and conferences, and not product-specific training. When I want to learn about individual cruise lines, resorts, and destinations, I make frequent use of online webinars. In fact, as a home-based agent, I think they are probably the best way to get this kind of training (there aren’t too many BDMs dropping by my house!) Read the rest of this entry »

Growing Pains

It’s Sunday afternoon, my family is watching football, and I am sitting at my desk stressing out about the pile of work that I need to get through. I have six clients waiting for proposals/quotes, two sets of documents that have to go in the mail, a monthly newsletter to write, dozens of names that need to be added to my honeymoon database, bills to pay, filing to do, etc. The list seems endless, and it will only get longer tomorrow.

I know I’m not the only one in this situation. Anyone running a one-person, home-based agency faces the same challenges. We wear all the “hats” in the office, from sales and marketing to accounting, IT, and receptionist. There’s no one to delegate the work to, and no one to pitch in and help.

At the same time, we all want to grow. After all, the goal of any successful business is to sell more, make more, and keep more, right?

So how does one person, with only two hands and 24 hours in the day, resolve the conflict between the never-ending “to do” list, and the need to add even more business to that pile?

If you’re hoping I’m about to give you the magic answer, I’m sorry, because I don’t have it. All I can tell you is what I’ve been doing to try and manage my own “growing pains”. Read the rest of this entry »

Be your brand

If you had to guess, what do you think Royal Caribbean’s annual marketing budget is? How about Disney?  Or Sandals?

And what percentage of that budget do they allocate to promoting your travel agency? Or promoting you, specifically, as a knowledgeable travel professional? Many of the suppliers do spend marketing dollars promoting travel agents as a whole; but they are not in business to pump up my individual bottom line. Or yours.  Nor should they be. Read the rest of this entry »

TTA seeks MVP

Traditional Travel Agent Seeks Most Valuable Partner

I married my husband right after college. Eighteen years and two great kids later, we often look back and marvel at how we managed to make such great choices at such a young age, but I think I already know the secret. We both knew to look past the surface and focus on things like values, priorities, and character.

It works when choosing a spouse (that’s how I avoided the party-hearty frat boys and ended up with my dependable, family-focused hubby) but it’s equally true in business. When we choose the suppliers we do business with, we need to look beyond the surface and examine the company’s core values, its way of doing business, and its overall “fit” with our business model. Read the rest of this entry »

Why can’t we all get along?

I’m a home-based travel consultant, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The funny thing is, it’s not my clients (or even prospective clients) who question the fact that I conduct business by appointment instead of having a retail storefront.

No, it’s the brick-and-mortar travel agents who give me a hard time!

I realize that there aren’t that many home-based agents here in Rhode Island (unlike Florida or California), and I expect to have to explain the idea to some of the older, more traditional brick-and-mortar agents, but I really don’t understand the hostility that I get in return. Read the rest of this entry »

Making trade shows work for you

As a firm believer in the power of face-to-face marketing, I really like exhibiting at shows. I know it can be expensive and time-consuming, but I think it’s the best way to promote my “brand” (which, after all, is me).

To maximize my success at shows, and to make the most of the time and money invested, I have some guidelines that I’ve developed over the years:

  • Picking a show: I like to pick shows that attract the right demographic for my business (educated, upscale professionals) and where I will be the only travel agent. For this reason, I tend to stay away from bridal shows and women’s expos and instead choose “niche” shows like the Saltwater Sportfishing Show or the Fine Furnishings Show. They both attract consumers with significant disposable income (to be able to afford expensive habits like boats and hand-crafted artisan furniture), and I am always the only travel agent, Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t forget about business networking

I recently wrote a column about personal networking, and how important it is to tell everyone you know, and meet, about your travel business. Once you are doing this consistently, the next logical step is to look for other local businesses that will help you spread the word to potential clients.

This kind of business-to-business networking does not have to be all that complicated. It can be as simple as asking your dentist if you can leave travel brochures in his waiting room, or offering to donate a portion of your commission to a favorite non-profit if their supporters book travel through you. Read the rest of this entry »

Networking is not a 4 letter word

Admit it. When I say “networking”, you cringe.

Because of all the aggressive “network marketers” out there, you immediately assume I’m talking about pushy MLM tactics designed to strong-arm your friends, relatives, and passing acquaintances into fattening your bottom line by joining your “downline”.

Well, that’s not what I’m talking about at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Miss Manners goes on a FAM

We’ve all heard the horror stories about Familiarization Trips, or FAMs, where some poor agent ended up with the roommate from hell. You know the one — stumbles around the room nude, drinks like a fish, and brings strangers back to the room at all hours of the day and night.

Obviously, that kind of behavior is inappropriate pretty much anywhere; but certainly on a FAM.  But, coming to a consensus on exactly what behavior is expected, appreciated and appropriate when one is fortunate enough to be invited on a FAM trip, is a bit more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Miss Manners tackles Travel Professionals

Hello, my name is Ann, and sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a travel agent.

Not all the time, of course, or I would not still be in this business. But often enough that it makes me stop and wonder why so many travel agents, as a group, can and do behave so poorly.

I was at a very nice dinner the other evening hosted by the Barbados Tourism Authority. It was in a downtown hotel ballroom, with a full catered dinner and open bar. The invitations had been sent weeks in advance, and people had been asked to RSVP.  It was on a weeknight, at 6:00 p.m., and presumably people would understand that it was an extension of their workday. A professional, educational event. Read the rest of this entry »