|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
It was a good week for travel advisors, with two major suppliers making announcements that focused on gaining agent loyalty. Travel Impressions created a program that lets agents become ambassadors to their select suppliers. In return, participating advisors get cash incentives to book the supplier; their customers also get an incentive to commit to their next trip. Along the way, the agent ambassador also gets lessons in how to become a social networking expert, learning how to set strategies for Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, you name it. It’s a gift that will keep on giving, even after the Travel Impressions promotion is over. Who doesn’t want to become a social networking expert?
Days later, Sandals said it was unbundling its weddings packages. As it once was, you signed up to have your nuptials at one of their resorts and you received a very nice, pre-set arrangement. Now, you have more control and the ability to select your colors, centerpieces, table settings, etc. The customizing comes at a cost to the customer, but the travel agent gets a commission on everything. When was the last time you got a commission on a bride groom’s boutonniere?
I love the way that suppliers are bullish on the travel advisor distribution channel. Just the other day, I had a European tour operator in my office telling me about how he felt consumers were wary of booking complicated trips on line, how many felt burned out from just making a few clicks to create a vacation, only to find out that there was no person to call at the end of the phone line if something went wrong.
This way of thinking has gone viral. The spate of positive consumer news stories on travel agents over the past few years has really made an impact on the minds of smaller travel suppliers and in the minds of the general public. Times are good.
The only concern I have as this rising tide helps the business of travel agencies overall is that some advisors still don’t know how to properly approach a supplier they’d like to do business with. I’m not talking about the big producers here, more so about the travel agent who is still trying to grow his/her business. I still hear complaints from cruise lines, tour operators and hoteliers that travel agents they’re unfamiliar with will walk right up to them at a trade show and ask them if they give free fams. Others will brashly ask for co-op funding, when there’s no relationship that’s been forged or before the agent has actually properly introduced himself to the supplier.
Hello, manners? At the very least, this is rude behavior. If you are an agent who has done this, think about how you would feel if someone approached you and demanded something for free. Wouldn’t the first thought be, “Who the heck are you?”
If you’d like to work with a supplier, consider first the type of business you might be able to bring them. Look at your client list to see what the potential could be and then approach the vendor politely with a well-written e-mail introducing yourself and your business. Have a series of well thought-out questions listed and then request the opportunity to speak directly with the business development manager in your area so you can determine if the relationship has a future.
Impressions are vital if you want to have a fruitful and long-term affiliation with a business partner. Be ready to present the benefits of working with your agency first before you demand to find out what the perks of working with a supplier may be.