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Preparing for this last “Agent Diary” column was very interesting. I went back and pulled up all of the articles from throughout the year and reread them to review the journey that all of you took with me over the course of time. I have to admit – a part of me really wishes that I had accomplished some greatness to write about over the last year that I could point to as validation that I am good at what I do. Ta-Da! Read the rest of this entry »

This year, for the first time in many, I have been very fortunate to have been able to travel to a few destinations I sell quite a bit – Mexico and Jamaica.  Most recently, after Mexico and Jamaica, I was the guest of another island tourist board and stayed as a guest of the host hotel. Having experienced the whole gamut of FAM trips—from the “quick get on the bus we have 32 more resorts to see before your flight leaves at 5pm” trips to the most recent, fully hosted one—and everything in between; I have made some observations. Read the rest of this entry »

Over the course of my time in the travel industry I have had the opportunity to attend many, many events and conventions put on by various organizations. I began the journey way back when with Joel Abels’ Travel Trade Shows and though the years have gone to CLIA 360’s, ASTA TradeShows, NACTA Conferences, Vacation.Com Conventions, HomeBased Agent Shows, Luxury Shows, Travel Weekly Shows…well – you get the idea.  Read the rest of this entry »

All Together Now Travel – passion and niches

I have always considered myself a lifelong learner – ready to take in a seminar or tune into a webinar if I think it will be useful for my business. Lately due to the social media craze it seems like a lot of programs are popping up discussing “finding your passion” and “niche marketing.” What I have noticed is that many agents I interact with in these situations confuse “finding your niche/passion” with the logical decision of which subcategory of travel will reap the most monetary return on their investment. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make money – I think choosing a niche based on that actually misses the point. Read the rest of this entry »

Wow as each month goes by, writing this column feels more and more like a stint in front of the “Confession Cam” that the reality shows use – but isn’t it nice to find out you are not alone in some of the day-in/day-out issues of running a business?

So what deep dark fear should we drag out into the light of day this month?

How about the M word – Mistakes. We all make them – for goodness sakes we are human – but it can be frustrating, embarrassing and even a little disheartening.  You swiftly move from trying to assess the damage, to thoughts about how you can fix the problem, and then finally, how you will save face in front of the client. Read the rest of this entry »

If you ask any of my Facebook friends they will tell you that I lead such a glamorous life as a travel agent! Why, just this month alone I jetted off to Cancun and Jamaica – posting beautiful pictures of the scenery I was taking in – what’s not to love? They picture me in these distant locales sitting on the beach with a frosty drink in hand…relaxing with the waves lapping at my feet. Of course in their minds, I got there for free as well. I even had an old classmate contact me today to ask how his daughter that “loves to travel” could get into the business! Read the rest of this entry »

Well – when I agreed to do this column for the year, I never envisioned that it would end up being a True Confessions column dishing all the dirty little secrets. But refreshing to know that we all are not alone! However-  given some of the responses I have received I seemed to have hit a chord with quite a few people. So let the blood-letting continue!

First things first. Last month’s column I talked about struggling with time management – sitting at my desk for too many hours and not giving myself enough personal time to enjoy life – which unfortunately had the strange effect of making me less productive! I vowed to take some time each morning for myself – catch up on my community’s news and actually be showered and dressed and ready for the day by the time I sat down at my desk. So how did I do? Read the rest of this entry »

The temptation when you agree to do a column such as this, is to choose topics that place you and your agency in a good light. However, I know that over the years I have personally learned much more when people have had the courage to share their challenges. It allowed me to relate and to brainstorm ways to overcome their obstacles for myself.

So in th spirit of service to others I will look straight into my imaginary reality TV camera – fall on my sword and proclaim…”Hi – my name is Barbara Oliver and I suck at time management!” Read the rest of this entry »

All Together Now Travel — When the $#!& Hits The Fan

When I committed to doing the Agent Diary Series it was basically an exercise in throwing down the gauntlet for myself. I admit I have two major recurring issues with running my business 1-Time Management, and 2-Follow-up. From discussions with other agents in the TRO community I knew I wasn’t alone and I thought making myself accountable in a public forum would be a good way to not only kick myself in the rear to get my act together but let you guys know that you aren’t alone in these struggles and we could brainstorm together.

Then life happened – some good and some not so good; oh heck, no need to sugarcoat it, some really horrible. Read the rest of this entry »

All Together Now Travel -Who am I?

As I sat down to write this first entry into what will become the baring of my soul for all to see – this lyric and tune from current hit movie Les Miserable echoed in my ears – bringing a smile to my face and a sweet twinge to my heart—‘Who am I.’  Who we are today is the culmination of all the things we have been and done in the past – so I guess a quick recap of that is in order to gain perspective of the journey that lies ahead. Read the rest of this entry »

Your 2013 Travel Agent Diary Agents

For the past four years, Travel Research Online has highlighted the lives of five of your colleagues. Some operate from home. Some operate from a bricks and mortar location. Some specialize and others generalize. Some are online, and one was even a large host agency. The people who have volunteered to put their business lives on the Internet for you to see are newbies to the industry and some old stalwarts. Regardless of their position in this great industry we call “travel,” they all have something to offer. It might be a marketing idea. It might be a tip on how to handle a group trip. It might even be a step-by-step guide to expanding and growing your niche business. Read the rest of this entry »

The holidays are upon us!  Halloween costumes sit on store shelves next to Christmas lights and tinsel.  This means that we’re about 2 ½ months away from 2013.  I continue unpacking and organizing my office after the recent move, while juggling bookings and client calls.  On the upside however, the last minute holiday bookings are starting to flow in.  One booking that I recently deposited was a direct result of my participation in the sports fest show back in June.  This commission alone covers the expenses related to the show; so we can now chalk that event up as a resounding success! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

The 2012 Trade Show Season

Cruise3Sixty in Ft Lauderdale this week kicks off 2012’s Trade Show Season.  The decision to attend a particular trade show or conference is a quandary for all involved.  Suppliers try to calculate the cost/benefit in terms of the number of agents who will attend, the costs of supporting the show and the intangible costs of not  attending – being invisible to the agency community.

For travel agents, the calculus is equally daunting. Beyond the cost of air and hotel, there is the time out of office and the lost business opportunities in a busy time of the year. The quality of the show’s presentations and offerings can vary widely.  In the best of circumstances the show promoter delivers a wide array of sales and marketing training designed to grow the travel practices of attendees.  At great trade shows, agent involvement and peer-to-peer sharing has replaced the hour long supplier panel infomercials that in years past posed as training.  In the worst of circumstances, the promoter simply goes through the motions, offering up the same anemic panels and breakout sessions show after show.

So choose wisely.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Do you take your own advice?

How many times a week do you talk to a client who tells you how stressed out they are? Work, the kids, and the house – egad they just need to unplug and get away for a while and recharge! We nod and smile knowingly. “Yes, yes…it’s very important for not only your mental health but your physical health as well to get away from all the everyday stresses!” We tell them, “Not only will it make you feel better, but you will be a better employee, parent and spouse when you take a little time away.” Then away we go to plan an awesome adventure for them.

Hmm…let me ask you though, when was the last time YOU went on vacation?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: TROTips

Linkable and One Note

Anybody who knows me, knows two things about me: One – I love to make simple technology work to run a paperless office; and two – I am a packrat even in the electronic environment (don’t get me started on what my garage looks like!). I have discovered a couple of new, or new to me, programs and tricks that I have had a lot of fun playing with.

Linkable – www.linkable.com

I have often commented that I would wither up and die if I lost my list of Favorite Bookmarks that I have been amassing for years – to me they are my salesman’s Rolodex. I’m so paranoid that it is one of the reasons I finally subscribed to Carbonite Online Backup. However, all those bookmarks makes it very difficult to navigate to frequently used ones, and my recent computer upgrade nicely re-alphabetized everything and completely wiped out Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Publishers Corner

Fall 2010 Trade Show Season

Mustering up the capital resources and the time to attend a trade show so is surely no light matter. A travel agency’s investment in both travel and accommodations are often significant. Yet, the opportunities afforded by a travel trade show are considerable. Most importantly, travel agents can delve deeply into the tenor of the companies they select for their business partners. There are few venues that provide the opportunity for face-to-face evaluations of travel suppliers like a trade show especially considering the chance to compare notes on suppliers with other agents. Indeed, trade shows afford an almost unique opportunity to learn about new product.

The face-to-face experiences inherent in a trade show are very valuable to a professional travel counselor. Strong supplier relationships are an important component of a thriving travel practice, and there is no substitute for meeting a supplier representative in person to take the measure of his or her company. But there is also the additional benefit of interaction with your peers. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

FAM: The nitty gritty of familiarization trips

Why are you a travel professional?  Ask any travel professional this question, and one of the top three answers is ‘because I love to travel.’  I’m certainly not an exception: I was bitten by the travel bug at a very young age, and each year I go somewhere I’m having the time of my life.  Yet, so many of us are so busy that getting time away is difficult.  It becomes easier to justify by combining a FAM trip with a personal vacation.

FAM trips, as you know, are “familiarization trips.”  They exist at the pleasure of a vendor to assist the travel professional in becoming “familiar” with their product, a destination, or an experience.  FAM trips can be any sort of travel planned for the purposes of educating oneself in order to become more knowledgeable as a consultant.  This includes simple travel agent rates at a hotel or on a cruise, but for the purposes of this article I will refer to vendor provided FAM trips, not site visits one may undertake on their personal vacation.

Let’s be honest: the idea of getting away from the office for a while is thrilling, even when it really is for work!  What attracts you to a FAM trip Read the rest of this entry »

Posted In: Agent Perspectives

Paperless office: myth or reality?

We’ve all seen the ads of a carefree independent agent sitting on a beach somewhere – laptop perched upon bare legs soaking up the sun, sipping a cool beverage, on the cell phone with a client booking their World Cruise group.

While that all sounds wonderful in theory, sometimes the reality can be a tad more problematic. What happens when the agent realizes that they don’t quite have all the tools or information necessary, like client credit card or passport numbers, to complete the booking process? Or the client is returning your call and wants to talk to you about the trip details you quoted the week before while you were still in the office.  Or they’d like to see a brochure – but you won’t be back for a week. And don’t get me started on how frustrating it can be to deal with the excruciatingly slow Internet connection aboard a cruise ship when you’re trying to access crucial information. Read the rest of this entry »