Watching the Oscars earlier this year spurred me to consider the overall concept of the "velvet rope" and who is admitted into this inner circle of privilege and access, while others simply get to hang on the sidelines and observe.
In show business, it's easy enough to determine who walks the red carpet from one year to the next. You're either hot or you're not. Your movie is a hit or a flop. You know the right people or you don't. Hmmmm, maybe it's not as simple as I once thought.
Traveling Like a VIP
Either way, the "velvet rope" concept applies to the travel agent model as well. Nearly everyone travels these days, but only a few are able to venture out in the type of style that affords them access to events and experiences that will permit them to truly savor their destination.
An experienced travel agent who enjoys a strong relationship with the general manager of a hotel and has built up a reliable network of "on-sites" on the ground can create an itinerary for a client that will make their less-privileged neighbor's vacation pale by comparison. They'll likely receive better service overall and—most importantly—they'll be recognized as a valuable customer.
Keep in mind, however, that you personally should have a place behind the velvet rope when it comes to working with suppliers. You can do this by endeavoring to ensure that the top executives of the hotels that you do business with know you and understand the value of the business that you are sending their way.
You can also enhance these relationships by becoming a top producer for the suppliers that you work with. Some luxury travel advisors are excellent at this practice; they select a handful of providers and direct the lion's share of their business to them. As a result, these agents typically receive higher commission rates than those who sell less of the product, and they're also recognized in other ways with various benefits. Some agents work differently, however, spreading their business out among a wide range of suppliers as they carefully consider who will best serve their customers.
Regardless of the model that suits your method of selling, I suggest you take a look at your business to determine if there is a way you can upgrade your status with the suppliers with whom you currently do business.
A good way to get started is to contact the local sales representatives from the hotel companies, cruise lines and tour operators you sell to determine what you need to do to get behind their velvet rope. Ask them for examples of other agents who have risen in the ranks to become top producers for them—they'll be happy that you asked!
Ruthanne Terrero, CTC
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR firstname.lastname@example.org