Back to Basics

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book for a second time and picked up on small details that you may have missed the first time around? If you're a seasoned agent, chances are you don't want to be taken back through the basics of selling travel. But by doing so, and by listening to a new perspective, you might pick up a small new detail that could have a large impact on business. Marc Mancini presents his secrets of selling travel

Many of the 179 travel agents who attended the 29th Annual Caribbean Tourism Conference in Grand Bahama, the Bahamas, kept their ears open for such details as they attended various seminars organized to help fine-tune some necessary skills.

If you weren't there, here's what you missed. And if you were there but didn't take notes, here's your second chance, as Travel Agent highlights notable seminars offered at CTC-29.

Secrets to Success

Marc Mancini, travel industry consultant and president of Los Angeles-based Marc Mancini Seminars and Consulting, refreshed agents on the most important tips in selling travel.

First, Mancini says, apply the "Seven Forgotten Steps of Sales." They are: greeting the client, qualifying the client, recommending a product, overcoming objections (or giving more details of a trip that might persuade the client's interest), upselling (or looking for add-ons), cross-selling (such as booking a rental car) and finally, closing the deal.

Start the sale with small talk; talking about the weather is always a good fallback topic.

After qualifying, recap a client's needs. Go over what he or she wants. Show that you have been paying attention.

Follow some of their recommendations with a suggestion. Perhaps a destination with a great golf course if golfing is preferred, or some value prices if a client seeks an affordable vacation.

Recap clients' needs again, thank them for the business, assure them they'll have a great vacation and always follow up with a client both before and after he or she leaves for the trip, Mancini says.

'The Times They Are A-Changin' "The Changing Channels of Travel Distribution," moderated by Joel Chusid, chairman of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives, featured presentations by James McNair, vice president, Canada/Western US Division, Sabre Travel Network; Doug Kostwoski, president, Travel People; Michael Herring, president and CEO, Sky Auction; and Laura Veglia, regional director, Caribbean Expedia Inc.

Details that agents may want to note: Online travel is the largest e-commerce category; Expedia.com, for example, has had about 75 million visitors. Online trends for the future include travel auctions, which are used as a tool for displaced inventory, such as empty hotel rooms and airplanes, according the speakers.

Speakers at this seminar also stressed such future trends in the travel agent business as agents' ongoing efforts to become "travel specialists," as opposed to travel generalists. This is evident by the increasing amount of online training courses certifying agents in a specific destination.

Diversity in Travel

A seminar on niche marketing was presented by Ty Christian, the president and managing director of TRC Consulting Group.

Christian says niche marketing is a sales strategy that was developed to capitalize on the extreme growth in segments of the consumer population designated by factors like race, age, gender and lifestyle.

It targets specific market segments and requires that the agent truly understands the differences between each segment: how these cultural, heritage and lifestyle differences affect what each group seeks when traveling.

Christian says one of the biggest lies or myths when it comes to niche/diversified marketing is that the African-American and Hispanic markets do not have the income for niche travel.

The African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American populations grew nearly four times as fast as the white population in the 1980s and '90s, Christian says. Grouped together, minorities account for more than 30 percent of the U.S. population, and their combined buying power exceeds $1 trillion. As a group, their consumer spending exceeds that of the white population by 25 percent.