|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
It’s been a great run for the travel agent community over the past few years; the consumer press has gotten wind of your capabilities and is publishing report after report that demonstrate all the good things you do: How you’ve gotten your clients home quickly despite international crises and how you’ve saved them money when times are good.
It might just be divine justice or maybe even payback time for all of those years when your industry sector was being described as “extinct,” but I have to admit, it’s exciting to wake up and find that once again a national newspaper is touting the service of the professional travel consultant.
I suggest you enjoy the free ride, but I also counsel you that the fabulous publicity you’re getting is just the launching point to prove to your clients exactly what your value is. There are several ways to illustrate your talents and validate your worth. Here are a few.
Did you reserve a stay for your clients and secure for them a free breakfast, an upgrade or an airport transfer, thanks to your consortia’s hotel program? Don’t just include it in the itinerary; write a note to your clients indicating that you’ve included the above perk, with your compliments. You pay good money for your consortia relationship, be sure to flaunt its benefits.
Perhaps you’ve saved your clients a hefty amount on their next cruise because your relationship with the line means it gives you a heads-up when it’s having a sale. I’m sure you’re savvy enough to let them know they’ve got a deal, but be sure to mention that it’s because of your long-standing affiliation with the supplier. So many travel advisors I know are shy and uncomfortable when it comes to tooting their own horn, but let me give you this piece of advice: No one is going to tout your services but you. Shameless promotion is not a sin if executed in a proper manner.
Getting back to saving your clients from peril during stressful times abroad, perhaps it was during the volcano that erupted in Iceland or when the Costa ship capsized in the Mediterranean. Or maybe there was just an urgent reason as to why your clients had to get back to their residence in a hurry. Write a case study about the steps you took to make it happen and share it with your consortia leaders or your local newspaper. Everyone loves a good crisis that has a happy ending. If you’ve got a tale to tell that includes foreign lands, ongoing drama, potential disaster and a tidy wrap-up that involves you wearing a virtual superhero costume, share it, even if it’s just on your blog or on your website. If there’s any poignancy you can throw in, be sure to include it. Everyone loves poignancy. If you had to stay up all night to reach international time zones to make arrangements for your clients, that’s good, too.
Note: If you have been smart enough to sell your clients travel insurance that helped them breeze through all of their travails with immunity, be sure to flaunt that as well. That’s just brilliant and it’s easy to do. Be sure it’s the type of insurance that protects them from a range of far-reaching incidents. You don’t want them thinking that they’re protected from all sorts of miseries when the truth is they have to die or be dismembered to get their money back. You might even have to be the one to tell them the bad news if you do that.
So here’s to redemption. This is the new era of the travel agent as a superstar. We’ve always known it to be true; it’s good that the general public is getting to know it again as well.