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How to Stay Ahead of Changing TrendsJanuary 23, 2015 By: Joe Pike, Jena Tesse Fox, Susan Young
|Jill Taylor, Jet Set World Travel: “It is important if you have younger clients to ask to work with their parents and if you have older clients, to ask to work with their children.|
So you specialize in exotic destinations to do the Ice Bucket Challenge in? Well, you may not have many clients as that fad, as good of a cause as it was, has clearly tapered off. The point is to never sell something that has an expiration date. It’s great to have a concentrated niche but don’t make it so specific that it may not be relevant in the future.
“It is imperative to stay updated on destinations, hotels and suppliers because they are constantly changing,” says Meredith Martin of Great Getaways Travel in Leawood, KS. “As travel advisors, our clients come to us to find out what is new, special and unique within a destination. For this reason, it is also very important to have relationships with suppliers around the world.”
The Solution: Don’t limit yourself
Give yourself an out, so to speak. Perhaps, instead of tying in exotic destinations to that Ice Bucket Challenge, you can pitch it as exotic destinations to film in. Keep it as general as possible within the niche.
For example, an agent who specializes in St. Lucia locations featured on the ABC shows “The Bachelor/The Bachelorette” is probably going to have a harder time than agents selling Caribbean locations featured on “The Bachelor/The Bachelorette.”
“Don’t limit yourself or fall into the trap of a trend by ensuring your specialization or niche is a type of vacation experience or region instead of the latest scheme like advisors selling travel via Groupon,” says Heather Christopher of Classic Travel at Tackett’s Mill in Woodbridge, VA.
|Rebecca Norrbom, Holiday Cruises: Agents must overcome “the mentality that by narrowing down your field of expertise you are somehow limiting growth.”|
Specialty or Niche?
This is a challenge agents, especially the newer ones, are faced with year after year. Is it better to have a niche or is it better to have a specialty?
Now, depending on who you ask, you will get a lot of different answers on what the differences between a niche and a specialty are.
We say look at it this way: a specialty is usually a destination, i.e. a Hawaii specialist, a Mexico specialist. A niche is usually something specific within that specialty. For example, same sex marriages in Hawaii, tequila tours in Mexico.
Some agents fall into the pitfall of not selling enough travel where others sell way too much.
“The biggest challenge when choosing a specialty is the decision of whether to specialize in the first place and overcoming the mentality that by narrowing down your field of expertise you are somehow limiting growth, or that you have to all of a sudden turn away business,” says Rebecca Norrbom of Holiday Cruises and Tours in Las Vegas.
The Solution: Sell what you’re the best at
Can’t decide if you should specialize in just Jamaica or the entire Caribbean? Should you sell gay weddings to Argentina or just sell gay weddings?
Just sell what you are the absolute most confident pitching. Never fudge anything. Clients are too technology savvy now. They have the same access to information as you do.
If you are a Hawaii specialist, for example, and sell gay honeymoons in Hawaii, but you want to also sell gay honeymoons to Argentina or New York? Well, we recommend you first become a specialist of those destinations. Learn everything and anything the general travelers would want or need to know about either destination. Once you have mastered the destinations, start selling niche products within them.
“Even better, know that the business you take is the business you make,” says Christopher. “Decide what business you’re going to take and say no to the rest! Making you a travel specialist instead of generalist.”
Tapping into the Millennial Market
Whether it’s on the agent side or the consumer end, Millennials have become a market that cannot be ignored by anyone in the travel industry anymore. According to a 2014 report from global information and measurement company Nielsen entitled “Millennials: Breaking The Myths,” Millennials are 77 million strong, on par with baby boomers, and they make up 24 percent of the U.S. population.
This represents significant opportunity for brands that understand who Millennials are, where they live and what they watch and buy. Roughly 2.5 million Millennial households across the country bring in more than $100,000 in income. With economic prosperity concentrated in the cities, the major metros emerge as strong centers of wealth for both Millennials and boomers, according to the same study.
The Solution: Become social media savvy—find them through baby boomers
Baby boomers are—and always have been—a well-traveled sect, so naturally they tend to bring their children along on vacations. Because of this, many Millennials got to see a good chunk of the world at a very young age. So the next time you have a baby boomer in your office talking about their sons or daughters, you should inquire about their need for an agent as well. It used to be the other way around. Agents would book spring break travel or any other type of travel that caters to young clients with hopes of leveraging the sale by getting their baby-boomer parents to come in as well.
And because these travelers got a head start on seeing the world, coupled with their sharp Internet skills, they are less likely to be scared off when a crisis such as Ebola hits. In fact, many Millennials often equate fear with value, so long as the fear is unwarranted.
“It can be challenging to ask clients for referrals,” says Jill Taylor of Jet Set World Travel, Inc. in Chicago, IL, “but it is important if you have younger clients to ask to work with their parents and if you have older clients, to ask to work with their children. This way you tap into the whole family and their extended families.”