I started writing this article many months ago as my busy season started in May. We have now come to the end of November, finally having a chance to complete it, so perhaps this is a year in review with still a month to go. I have written many articles in the past for TRO about issues in the industry and how I feel they should be handled; and also about concerns of the challenges we all face in this volatile world in which we live. It has been a year like Grand Central Station – crazy busy where I thought I had reached a saturation point and not knowing what to do. I thought I had reached my limit and perhaps many of you have felt this way at times. Business has been excellent, as I have read from many this year, which is a good issue to have, especially when you are self-employed as I am. It can also be bad, as there has to be a balance. Read the rest of this entry »
Perception is not reality; and it is our responsibility to make sure that clients understand that what may be happening in one part of the world, although serious, most likely will not have an impact on where the client is considering traveling.
I recently returned from Morocco and found it to be an amazing place–friendly, safe and not near the issues of the region. And yet, when I told people I was going there, some asked if I was concerned about Ebola and the issues of the Middle East and I said with certainty, no. Read the rest of this entry »
I have been using Tripology since its infancy back in 2007 and with good success through its trials and tribulations as a small business in midtown Manhattan, to almost disappearing totally, to being bought by Rand McNally, to now as part of USA Today. I have had many colleagues in the industry that have also met with success using Tripology, but it is not for everyone. Tripology is a good lead service that works if you are willing to work it. It especially works for those who truly have a niche or true specialization. Is it perfect? Not at all! Read the rest of this entry »
I hear it all the time. Agents complaining about having to arrange experiences to enhance their client’s adventures that do not produce revenue–taxis, transfers, reservations, etc. Now while we are ultimately in this to make money and earn a living, and not a charity or an information service; we need to realize that to stand out above the OTAs and mega-sites that not all the services we are able to provide, will earn us money. It is just the way it is. Read the rest of this entry »
Oh the holidays and the deals out there. Even the travel vendors got into the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy. We just got done with Thanksgiving and I easily had 200 emails from travel vendors sending me their specials. In fact, I was receiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday email specials from vendors, well before Thanksgiving; and like most of the traditional retailers, they are trying to get a head start. Read the rest of this entry »
I just read a post on an agent-only site where an agent was complaining about how tiring it was to have to beg to get an “agent” rate for the whole family and it frustrated me. There were some who replied with examples that with certain hotels, this is never a problem and someone else chimed in with “why should the whole family get an agent rate?” The more I thought about this, the more it annoyed me and how I wholeheartedly agreed with the comment about why should the family get a discount? Read the rest of this entry »
When you meet with a client to go over their upcoming travel adventure, what do you present to them?
In the 21st century, it seems everything is electronic from e-tickets for flights to e-docs for cruises, even some of the European trains have gone to e-tickets. A client pays thousands of dollars or more and they receive a thank you email along with a confirmation number. This is what many of the big tour operators and cruises have done in the name of saving money; and yes, it may save money. We try to reduce paper in the name of environment. Some suppliers still provide a nice packet so the clients have something in hand, but not all. Personally, if I use multiple suppliers, I create my own folder with personalized labels. Read the rest of this entry »
Travel insurance can bring out the negatives of this business. We have to be cognizant of it and we need to sell it to protect against the bummers of travel including the weather, delays, interruptions and cancellations, as well as lost luggage and so forth; not to mention, the unforeseen medical situation. You get the point.
As part of my sales information form and contract, I do include a piece about travel insurance and require them to formally accept or decline the insurance. I find this a must because as we all know, anything can happen. I recently had a client on an Italian vacation. They had a flight cancellation, a flight delay and lost luggage. Unfortunately, they opted out of insurance. Read the rest of this entry »
Once you have been hired by a client, do you ever feel the need to fire that client, especially when they have worked you to death without compensation or perhaps, you have been paid the agreed upon fee and then for every suggestion you make, they have questioned or negated the suggestion, not once, but many times.
I am not sure if this is a recent trend, but I certainly have had my fair share of these situations, and it is happening more and more often. Now, I can understand there are those who are simply out fishing for information; and if you are accustomed to the fishermen, you know when to say enough is enough. Answering a few questions is not a problem, but when you start to offer up options including itineraries, quotes, and more intricate planning and the potential client does not want to pay, what do you do? Read the rest of this entry »
Thank you again for the all of the comments and replies to my last article, “What are you” and the continued responses to “Protecting the Travel Professional”.
As I read through the comments and emails, I began to think about preferred suppliers. Yes I do use them. This is not a controversial topic, but the question is, do you use them exclusively and if so, why or why not?
When I was an employee of an agency, I was told I needed to use preferred suppliers as much as possible and other colleagues told me they were required to use preferred suppliers exclusively; which begs the question, what if your client wants something different and a preferred supplier can’t offer an option? Do you turn away business because you can’t offer a non-preferred option, or try to change the client’s mind to fit the preferred option? Read the rest of this entry »
I wanted to thank everyone who read my last piece on sales contracts and fees. I received many requests for copies of my sales contract and hope it was helpful. That said, I have been thinking about other issues that have come to the forefront of our industry recently and with the recent Woman’s Day article, a Lending Tree advertisement back in May that portrayed travel professionals in negative light, and more recently, an article by Kyle Kensing who wrote that if all else fails, consider a “useless job” (his words, not mine) which lumped travel agents into the “useless” category. These three pieces brought out ire that I have not seen from this industry since I have been in it. I am proud of those who spoke out at the grassroots level to express their anger. It is evident that many still regard our profession as a lesser profession than others. Of course, using the term agent, a term I dislike, is still perpetuated by organizations that represent us like ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) and others. Read the rest of this entry »
This weekend, I was working on some travel projects and getting documents together for clients leaving in a few weeks. I took a breather and decided to go into a forum I frequent, Travel Agency Best Practices. There was an interesting thread about a client who insisted on doing their own air arrangements while the agent handled the land arrangements. Throughout the process, the agent had confirmed and re-confirmed the dates and the client was adamant that the dates were indeed correct. Well, you guessed it. The client did not realize the departing flight arrived the following day and they lost a day of travel. And, I will give you one guess who the client wanted to blame! I chimed in and said that in those instances, I insist that the client provide us a copy of the airline or agency issued itinerary for verification. Others replied and the chatter went back and forth for a while. Read the rest of this entry »
Way back in 2010, I wrote a series of articles for the Travel Agent Diary series for TRO and now have the chance to write again. When I first started writing, my company, Wandering Puffin, was still in its infancy. Now 6 years in, my agency has matured and I am feeling the desire to keep going and keep growing. I remember the nervousness of starting on my own; it was exciting, but unnerving at times. I maintained a part time job as a safety net, which, until a year ago, I kept. I used to substitute teach part time, but my passion and my experience has given me the confidence to let that go and focus on the future of my business which has certainly grown. Read the rest of this entry »
What a year it has been for Wandering Puffin LLC, for me personally and for the industry in general. When I first started writing these columns, I truly did not know where I would be at the end of the year. I certainly was much more pessimistic about business early on, but wow, what a change! When I started, the economy, although, still in bad shape, was in much worse shape. I had to supplement my business by not working one part time job, but sometimes two or three and we are certainly not out of the woods yet. The travel bug though is engrained in us and slowly but surely, business picked up and I was busy all year long with bookings and prospects well into next year. We also had to deal with the Icelandic volcano, civil strife in a number of different locations around the world and the British Airways strike just to name a few issues that affected the travel industry and my business directly. Certainly the fall and rebirth of Tripology had a major impact on my business. Read the rest of this entry »
It has been an interesting month since I returned from Iceland–a short, but amazing adventure, including the ATV ride and returning to Gullfoss and Geysir. I always enjoy Iceland, a place where I am able to recharge my batteries; and since it was to be my only trip to Europe this year (or so I thought), it was one packed with professional and personal goals. When I returned from Iceland, there was an email invitation to Sicily for a symposium in November. And given I had never been to Sicily (and the price being right.), I accepted. This looks to be an exciting end to the year. Read the rest of this entry »
By the time you read this, I will be in the Land of Fire and Ice, a place where the puffins live; although, being smart, they have already left for the season and are out to sea. I, on the other hand seek out the colder climes and amazing experiences, including the opportunity to take an ATV trip on the Vatnajokull Glacier. My hard work and dedication to my business had paid off and I am making it across the pond, or at least halfway across, to Iceland. Read the rest of this entry »
When last we chatted, I was grading my performance through the first half of the year. It had been a roller coaster ride of sorts, but the hard work was paying off. I have tried to find new ways to continue the upswing and reduce the downside. Some things have worked and others have not. I have worked hard in trying to increase my client base and now it is time to refine it. I have continued to stay in touch with past clients, letting them know that I am still around to help them out with their future travels and ask that they keep me in mind when talking with their friends and family. Read the rest of this entry »
We have passed the halfway mark in the year and it is time for my midterm exam. Where has the year gone? So many events have happened this year that have affected the industry and my business, not the least of which has been the economy. We have had the volcano in Iceland, the British Airways strike, civil unrest in Athens and most recently the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although these events and others have had a powerful impact on the industry, I have seen my business grow since this time last year — something I would have never imagined at the beginning of the year given the current state of the economy. Read the rest of this entry »
The past few weeks have certainly been hectic ones; and I am not here to complain. In fact, business has continued to grow despite my pessimism when I first started to write these diary entries. This is a business where every day, the different twists and turns provide an amazing challenge. I am not one for roller coasters in real life, but this business is, in a sense, a roller coaster ride and those that are willing to challenge themselves will succeed. Read the rest of this entry »
When we last left off, I was planning to write about my planned trip/study tour to Iceland. I ended up turning down the trip. It was not because of the volcano, an amazing experience to have had, to say the least; it was not because of economics, although, I believe, it could be partly due to that; and it was not the cost. It came down to balancing out the need to continue to stay in touch with my clients, and my need to return to a place where I have enjoyed many travel experiences. My decision was driven by my desire to ensure that my clients were well taken care of during this latest time of uncertainty, with the volcanic activity, and the unrest in Greece (both places where I have clients traveling), could be affected by the events–past, present and future, and I needed to be here for them. Read the rest of this entry »
I was trying to think about what to write this time around and looked back on last month’s Travel Agent Diary entry. Last month, I was considering a balance between being a generalist and having a niche market or specialty areas in which I have a passion. I was feeling more optimistic about how my business was picking up, but it was just starting. Thankfully, it has continued to do so. I was also concerned by the “demise” of Tripology which turned out to be premature as they are back like the Phoenix rising, and part of Rand McNally. I am excited to have this resource back, having found the other resources, not nearly as good. Read the rest of this entry »