It’s Not Business as Usual, But It’s Business

Having just returned from NEST Fest in Xcaret, Mexico, I have to say that I’m encouraged by the attitudes of the agents I met there. Yes, the economy was the hot topic of conversation as it is everywhere these days, but what struck me was the resilience and resourcefulness of the home-based agents I spoke to. Not content to just ride it out and wait for the magical recovery that all the pundits tell us is coming, agents are eagerly seeking out new ways to build business and new tools with which to do that.

The packed auditorium for NEST’s speaker presentations, and the enthusiasm with which the speakers were received, indicated a desire for and openness to new ideas. From keynote speaker Nancy Friedman, who focused on improving customer-service skills on the phone, to motivational speakers Stuart Ellis-Myers and Nolan Burris, who offered dynamic approaches to creating recession-proof revenues and selling leisure travel, respectively, attendees were encouraged to focus on the positive aspects of travel, and to impart that positive attitude to their clients.

Along those lines, I took part in a conference call with the folks at Disney, in which that message of positive attitude was reinforced. Sharon Siskie, vice president of national accounts and travel agent sales, Disney Destinations, suggested that in these difficult times, agents reach out to their clients in an upbeat manner. “Connect with your clients,” she says. “Help them escape from their everyday stress.”

There is something to be said for positive reinforcement; even if your clients don’t take you up on a deal right now, they’ll remember your call when they’re ready to travel again. As Friedman noted in her address at NEST Fest, “A smile goes a long way—even over the phone.”

Speaking of smiles, Home-Based Travel Agent is looking for a few smiling faces to adorn our soon-to-launch “Out & About” photo page. Beginning with our January/February issue, we’ll be running this page in every issue, with photos from events focusing on you, the home-based travel agent, and the travel industry in general. If you have a photo you would like to submit for consideration, please send it my way. That’s just one of the new elements we have in store for Home-Based Travel Agent in 2009.

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