What a thrill to be part of such a successful industry event as we had in December—the first-ever Home-Based Travel Agent Expo & Conference. I witnessed hundreds of agents meeting face to face with suppliers on the trade show floor, packing conference sessions for tips from industry experts and making connections with each other.
You have special challenges working from home—one of the biggest is being on your own. "Part of the problem when you're home-based is being isolated," says Linda Tatten, the agent profiled. Tatten attended the expo with a group from her host agency, Travel Counsellors.
This expo succeeded in bringing together all the elements that contribute to a flourishing business, but its main accomplishment was connecting home-based agents to key industry players and to each other.
It was great to see so many top executives from the biggest suppliers coming out in full force. This was a wonderful show of support and demonstrated confidence in the importance of the home-based agent to suppliers. It's not new, home-based agents being recognized by suppliers, but as your numbers and businesses grow, so does the recognition. For example, "Home-based travel agents have been consistently recognized as generating the highest yields of any distribution channel," NACTA President Joanie Ogg says in reference to passenger spending on sold-out cruises.
As the industry keeps morphing, your business will be playing a bigger and bigger role in the bottom lines of the hotels, cruise lines, tour operators and other suppliers where you book clients.
So keep getting out there to educate yourself on the products available, and thinking strategically about your business. Know the trends, know your clients and know that you are a valued member of this great business we're all in—travel.
Conference highlights for me included John Severini's talk at the general session. President of Trafalgar Tours, Severini shared a story that illustrated his topic of creative approaches to growing your business. He told the audience about an agent who reached out to teachers at a community center to drum up interest in tours. She proposed that if the teachers could get a group of at least 15 people together for a trip that the teachers could go for free. Ten of the 12 instructors turned her down, and of the other two, one got a group of 25 and the other a group of 15. The students enjoyed a great trip, the teacher took a free trip and the agent got 18 percent commission and 40 new clients. An irony is that there was an agent in one of those classes—an agent who lost out on the business because she didn't make the proposition herself.
Make sure to bookmark December 4-6 for the expo's return to Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, and visit www.homebasedtravelagentexpo.com.