|Ruthanne Terrero, CTC Vice President–Content/Editorial Director|
I recently got to sit down with Barry Liben, chairman of Tzell, as the New York-based agency gets ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary later this month. Thanks to his great perspective on the industry, Liben shared some very practical tips for travel advisors during our interview and what struck me the most was his attitude toward suppliers. He said it’s essential for an advisor not to think they’re more important than a supplier, no matter how much business they’re giving them. “I always caution people who work for me when we negotiate. I say, ‘Never lose track of the fact that at the end of the day, Delta or American are big companies and you have to respect that.’ They have thousands of employees and they have a bottom line, too. They have to report to shareholders.”
I’m sure that mantra should ring true for smaller suppliers as well, and I’m always surprised when I hear rumblings about travel agencies that aren’t too kind with their demands from the vendors they work with. This is such a convivial industry because most of us simply love what we’re doing. The joy shows through when we see each other. It’s the respect for each other that keeps our industry a great one and that’s a lesson that should be taught to each new travel agency employee as they come on board.
Liben’s other insights were also to the point and very useful for both new advisors and veterans alike.
1. Always do your homework.
2. Don’t take shortcuts, ever.
3. Never lie to your clients. Tell them the truth, good or bad.
4. Enjoy this job.
5. Life is not a dress rehearsal, make the most of it!
These succinct comments also make me realize how intense a travel advisor’s job really is. Consider the precision needed to plan all the legs of a perfect itinerary and how many times you have to check and triple check that all the details have been seen to. Add to that the need to ensure that your clients have read all of the important information you’ve sent them and that their passports are up to date. As for the shortcuts, in travel, you don’t get away with much if you cut corners. If you take a risk by assuming something will go right, you’re making yourself or your client vulnerable, and that just can’t end well. It’s really an unforgiving role that you play.
And that’s what makes Liben’s advice to “Enjoy this job” all the more important. What you do on a day-to-day basis may be ultra challenging, but the rewards are great. Hopefully you’re taking the opportunity to travel and if you do, make sure you’re educating yourself and making yourself a better advisor.
Congratulations to Tzell on their 50th year of selling travel. Not many businesses have made it this far and evolved with all of the ups and downs of the industry. We celebrate Tzell’s advisors as well; as Liben is quick to point out, they are the bedrock of the business and the key to the $2.5 billion agency’s success.