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Judging by the Package

August 1, 2008 By: Ruthanne Terrero Travel Agent

Victoria’s Secret is known, of course, for selling all sorts of appealing undergarments, but it also has an attractive clothing line as well. What’s even more appealing about the outfits Victoria’s Secret sells is that they’re worn by the same famous models that show off its lingerie line. In the ads, the models are usually standing on some amazing tropical beach with the sun shining on them and their hair thrown back as if life’s bounties know no bounds. They can make a striped T-shirt look like a million bucks.

The funny thing is, if you order any of this clothing, it comes in what is probably the least appealing packaging you’ll ever find. It’s usually folded up as small as can be into a tiny plastic package and dropped into a larger, very unattractive bag. When you receive it, you can’t quite believe that this is the same exotic clothing you saw on that fabulous model on that alluring beach in the catalog.

This is a case of a company whose promotional efforts receive an A-plus, but whose delivery leaves a lot to be desired.

There are a few lessons to be learned here, believe it or not.

The first is that brochures don’t necessarily always tell the truth. It’s easy, especially when it comes to travel, to portray images of a beach or a hotel that are overly flattering. Everyone knows this, but everyone forgets it when they get caught up in the excitement of planning a trip. They want that beach to be perfect and they wish and hope that hotel is spotlessly clean and comfortable, even though it’s 30 years old and hasn’t gone through a refurbishment since it opened.

Keeping It Real
As travel agents, it’s important to bring your clients back down to earth when they walk in with a gorgeous brochure or direct you to the website of the hotel they want to visit. You are the ones who need to take a step back, examine what’s real and what’s fake and then direct them to a supplier that will truly deliver the experience they are looking for.

Along those same lines, it’s important that you, as a travel agent, don’t get too caught up in the process of selling a dream that doesn’t actually exist. You may be anxious to close a sale, but if the picture you are painting for your client of guaranteed endlessly sunny days in a “luxury” hotel is something that exists simply in your mind, you’ll never see that client again and you’ll probably waste their hard-earned vacation dollars. There are plenty of suppliers who provide stellar products. Your job is to sort through them all to determine which of them are trustworthy. One way to do that is to consult with the consortia to which you belong; management at these associations spends most of its time forming alliances with dependable suppliers who have undergone a quality assurance process.

Another method to cutting through all of the hype is to be sure that you are out on the road, testing these products yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up behind the desk, fulfilling the requests of your clients, but in the end, that will make you more of an order-taker rather than a true travel consultant. Take the time for field trips to visit top hotels. If you are a manager, allow your agents to travel, but when they do, insist that they return to the office with a trip report so that the rest of your agents can learn from the experience. Be sure to give your agents strict criteria as to how they should be judging these properties; if they are new to the industry, it’s easy for them be overwhelmed if they’re seeing their first so-called luxury hotel. Remember, natural instincts propel us into wanting something to be good. We all hope that the fabulous sundress on the Brazilian model standing on a rocky cliff will make us appear just as dazzling as she does, but when it shows up on our doorstep in that gray little package, reality will kick in soon enough and we’ll wonder why it is that we were fooled again by pretty pictures.

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