I recently sat on a panel at Virtuoso’s Travel Mart entitled, “10 Things You Can Do Today to Increase Your Bottom Line.” When the topic of cruise pricing came up, an agent in the audience provided an excellent tip. She said that in this new “deals” environment, she’s often been able to call clients to say that the price of the cruise they’d booked had gone down and they were getting money back. In one instance, she called a client who had booked a family reunion of 27 on a Princess cruise.
“I have some really great news and some bad news,” she told the client. “You just saved $4,000 on this cruise because the price has gone down. The bad news is you can only keep $500 of it. You lamented that you wished you could have booked the junior suites or the mini suites. Now you can.” The client and her 26 family members were able to enjoy their upgrades. The travel agent said she knew that next time around, they were likely to reserve suites, because as we all know, you can’t go back.
The lesson learned is that there is some good coming out of this deals culture we’re in now. Many clients will be upgraded to suites for the first time and they won’t want to go back to a standard room. If you’re able to “sell your clients up” as this savvy agent did, you’ll have a far more sophisticated clientele.
Insights from Experts
The panelists also gave amazing insights. Dennis Pinto of Micato Safaris’ tip for enhancing your business was simple as well. “Attitude is key to selling. I spent a lot of time in travel agencies this summer and it’s interesting that those agents who project a positive attitude are doing better than those who are not. I see that even with my own staff. When someone calls and is asked, ‘How are you doing?’ the answer shouldn’t be ‘I’m okay,’ or ‘I’m hanging in there.’ Why would you book a safari with a guy who is just hanging in there? We often say these words because they seem like the appropriate thing to say. That is a strategic mistake.”
Pisa Brothers’ Mindy Rozenberg suggested partnering with stores like Williams-Sonoma, which often give cooking demonstrations, and become a part of the program by talking about Italy or whatever region the cuisine of the day is from. It’s even possible to get tour operators to those regions in on the act, she said.
Julie Lemish of Rex Travel said travel advisors should give their clients “permission” to vacation by letting them know that other clients are traveling. “They are so happy to hear you say, ‘Don’t listen to a thing you hear in the media. The press would have you believe that nobody is spending any money anywhere.’ We constantly remind people that the world did not end and that people are going on with their lives.”
Georgia Kirsner of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company told the audience to embrace social networking. She was recently on a fam trip with an agent who within days of returning home had posted a blog of the experience with his own photos. He set it to music and within a week had enjoyed more than 1,000 viewings of the story. It didn’t cost him a thing. “I thought that was extremely exciting and proactive,” said Kirsner.
I’ll be sharing more tips with you in future issues and on TravelAgentCentral.com. I should note that the panel was artfully moderated by Jim Strong of Strong Travel and Victoria Boomgarden of Best Travel Gold. I enjoyed getting to know Victoria better; if you would like to find out more about her, check out our August 31 issue, where she was named one of our Top Travel Agents for 2009.