John Werner, president and COO of MAST Travel Network, urged travel agents to be wary of the difficult economic climate faced by the industry and of the effects of airline and cruise pricing. In an interview with Travel Agent, Werner said agencies should remain highly visible to agency customers with positive public relations and heavy marketing of travel promotions.
"Sell confidence and call clients because they may not call you,” Werner said, praising agency members for their proactive stance during the sales slowdown. Such steps include cleaning up agency mailing lists, adding detail and marketing information to customer profiles in their databases, and stepping up marketing activities and loading-up on training.
Werner warned that cuts in airline capacity are keeping airfares higher than they might be in a recession and that is dampening sales further. “The market is so price-sensitive now that customers are judging affordability first by the airfare," he said. "If they don't think the airfare is in line with what they perceive the cost should be, they are not going to the destination.”
cruise sales remain strong, Werner still warned of consumer resistance.
“Cruise rates are a bargain but customers are finding the fuel
surcharges, taxes, and extras objectionable and the cruise lines need
to address this issue,” he said.
On the training front, MAST launched a new sales program titled "MASTering Sales Workshop." The comprehensive sales training program takes an agent from the customer inquiry stage to making the booking. MAST developed the program in collaboration with John Dalton, veteran industry sales trainer, and is also working with Bob Stalbaum of Strategies for Success on a series of marketing and public relations tips, and with Nolan Burris on a a professional fees seminar on December 10.
“Our marketing program has expanded this year to include more e-mail campaigns designed by us and customized for each agency,” Werner said. "Another new program for members is e-mail marketing on demand in which we help them send e-mails they create and put into our system for delivery and follow-up.”