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Lessons Learned from Priscilla AlexanderAugust 2, 2012 By: Ruthanne Terrero Travel Agent
|Vice President—Content/ Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
Whenever I write about Priscilla Alexander, president of Protravel International, I come away with many words of wisdom that are worth repeating. In our cover story in this issue, we profile Alexander and five of her agents who have switched from one career to that of being a travel advisor.
You’ll find some true gems of advice within the narrative of Priscilla’s story, whether you’re a new travel advisor or if you’ve been in the business for many years. Here are some of some top tips I culled from my conversations with her.
Have a strong support system that allows new agents to ramp up quickly. This includes technology, but it also means new advisors should have a mentor they can sit with to learn every facet of the system.
Good travel advisors know how to listen. People tend to say one thing and sometimes mean another. Interpreting what they mean correctly will make or break a vacation.
Bad things will happen no matter how good you are. Connections will be missed, the car may not be at the airport waiting when your client steps to the curb. Some of the mistakes might be your own, which you’ll learn from the next time. Communicate whenever you see something going wrong. Don’t harbor it. Just fix it.
If a client has a confusing itinerary with people coming and going at different times, don’t sell them nonrefundable tickets. Go back to the client in a polite manner to be sure that what they said in terms of arrivals and departures is what they really meant to say, and that it’s 100 percent confirmed.
Being a travel advisor is a 24/7 job. You may be in New York, but your client is in Hong Kong. Don’t be flustered when they call you on the weekend for help. Know what your support system is and be ready to know whom to contact so you can assist.
Not all elements of being a travel advisor are sexy. There is invoicing, asking for payment and processing paperwork, not to mention checking and double-checking the details again and again. That dream trip won’t be dreamy if you forgot to send confirmation to the hotel that your client is arriving.
The first year on the job is challenging. You have a lot to learn and learning to sell takes time. Give yourself the chance to ramp up and constantly consider how you can use your strengths to be a better travel advisor. Everyone is different. What makes you shine?
Keep your clients close. Reach out to them during their trip and afterwards. Send them flowers upon their return home when the biggest thing they have to look forward to is emptying their luggage of dirty laundry. Entice them with their next trip now, or someone else will.
Travel as your clients would. We are often wined and dined in this industry, but how will a “regular” person be treated when they go to that same hotel? Watch for pitfalls they may encounter in a destination and share those tips with them before you send them off. Meet with suppliers regularly to keep updated on travel products. If you’re working remotely, get yourself over to the main office to meet with vendors so you’re as up to date as your colleagues.
Managers: Watch for red flags during an interview for a new advisor. If they’re only asking about what kind of free travel they’ll be able to get if they work for you and offer nothing else, they may not be what you need. Finding new people is important, but not if they’re the wrong new people.