How can you become a top-producing agent for a travel supplier? In this in-depth cover story for Travel Agent magazine, we reveal the secrets of the most successful, profitable agents in the business. Read how these travel sellers learned how to work collaboratively and creatively to earn the most cash (and the most prestige) from some of the largest suppliers in the travel industry.
Top Producer for SuperClubs
If knowing your product is the key to becoming a top producer, no one should be surprised that Discount All-Inclusive was named Top-Producing Travel Agency for SuperClubs' Grand Lido Resorts and Spas for the third year in a row.
The agency, home to eight-full time agents and located in Georgia, was recently handed the SuperClubs' Superstar Award for the category of sending between 500 and 700 clients a year to Grand Lido properties.
"You have to love the product you are selling, and you have to know all about it," says Lynn Olivari, the agency's owner.
Olivari fell in love with Grand Lido Resorts and Spas when
she stayed at Grand Lido Negril during her first fam trip 10 years ago.
Ironically, falling in love is also the same reason she was unable to attend
the recent awards ceremony held during SuperClubs' 30th anniversary in
Olivari says the product, as is the case with all SuperClubs facilities, is ideal for both couples (usually in the 30-to-50-year-old demographic) and families. The key to selling a specific product is repeat customers who then spread the word, she says.
And to have that, the hotel must be able to back up the agent's advice.
"You don't convince a client they are going to love a place unless you really feel that way," Olivari says. "In all my years selling Grand Lido, I haven't had one complaint from a customer. When that happens, the product usually sells itself."
Top Producer for Travel Bound
One of Travel Bound's highest-producing agents is Leatta
Purdue, founder of Europe-Your-Way (www.europe-your-way.com), an online company that focuses
solely on FIT excursions to
Purdue says that her success with Europe-Your-way comes from
limiting services to just
If a satisfied client she had previously sent to Europe
calls and asks if she can help him plan a trip to
"It's not easy for some agents to turn down a potential sale," says Purdue, but she notes that by limiting her company's sales to Europe, she is able to stick strictly with a list of preferred vendors and suppliers, with whom she works very closely. The result is that her clients are happier and have better experiences in Europe, and she and her staff aren't wasting time trying to plan trips to destinations where they don't have strong connections—and where clients may perhaps find better prices from a different company.
"Also, she notes, "people tend to go to
By keeping her Europe-only customers happy, Purdue is able to turn them into repeat customers and also earn their referrals.
A blend of an online travel company and a traditional travel
agency, Europe-Your-Way allows customers to fill out a form online and then
assigns an agent to each customer. Purdue, who leads a yearly tour to
"My first job was in a storefront shop, where I
realized that most of my coworkers were only interested in the fam trips and
free food at lectures. I quickly realized that online travel was the move to
make," she says. Though her company is based in
Nico Zenner of Travel Bound attributes Purdue's success to her "successful business model."
"She has a highly personalized customer approach in an otherwise impersonal and often crowded marketplace," says Zenner.
Purdue runs several other successful travel web sites, and is also in the process of launching a new venture, Asia-Your-Way.
Mary Jean Tully
Top Producer for
Twenty years ago, Mary Jean Tully made a conscious decision to turn all her attention to selling luxury cruises. The choice was a smart one, and today her Canada-based agency, The Cruise Professionals, is the number-one worldwide seller of Crystal Cruises and Tully, chairman and CEO, is the one who made it all happen.
Her aim to become a schoolteacher was quickly dashed after reading a classified ad for a job with a travel agency. She never looked back. Tully has been voted a top luxury cruise specialist by Condé Nast Traveler for seven consecutive years, but accolades aside, she credits Crystal Cruises with allowing her to become a top producer for the line.
"They are one of the top products out there, a fine-tuned machine, which makes it easy to sell," she says. "They have a level of professionalism which they have never deviated from. I align with lines that will keep people coming back."
Tully credits her close relationship with
"I can count on one hand how many problems I've had
Resolution like this is why Tully has many repeat clients
Tully has been able to succeed where others have failed because she knows how to sell luxury cruises. She says that many agents aren't adept or equipped to do it. "Many people think it's about 'what can the line do for me,' as opposed to what can I do," she notes. "They already have an excellent product and shore side excursions; my job is to market it."
Top Producer for Pleasant Holidays
Steve Pomranz is the vice president of travel services for
the AAA branch that serves
"Pleasant Holidays has always had a fantastic reputation," he says. "I knew of them over the years, but I had been on the corporate side of things. When I moved to the leisure side 11 years ago, I began to work with them, and they've provided high quality service, competitive marketing support, various categories of rooms in high-quality properties and competitive pricing."
Pleasant Holidays is best known for
Also contributing to his sales success is the fact that Pleasant Holidays offers "lots of flexibility with their products. They'll take a package and modify it to fit clients' needs, goals and interests," he says. He also praises the company's web site, customer service support and marketing efforts. "They've been excellent in supporting our marketing efforts through co-op advertising, promotional events and the annual Mahalo Days Hawaii promotion. Also, they've been willing to hold agent incentive programs where agents get money or prizes for achieving sales goals."
The combination of his own attention to his clients' needs and the skills of Pleasant Holidays' management personnel has allowed Pomranz and his team to achieve repeat business and become top producers for the tour operator.
"If you haven't tried them, it's definitely a company you should consider," he says.
Top Producer for Carnival Cruise Lines
Listening to Jeff Anderson speak is like getting a free
tutorial in web-based applications. Turns out, the technology he speaks of is
what has propelled
Similar to the rhetoric of businesses needing to embrace
sustainable technology platforms to compete, all indications point to
technology playing a major role in the future growth and existence of travel
agencies. "There has to be some tie to the Internet. Without it, you're
Unlike a consortium, AVC is a host agency with roots dating
back to 1964, when
"Agents seek us out, and we look for the cream of the
So how do both Anderson and his outfit become a top producer?
Of course, not all of AVC's success is Internet related. When it comes down to it, a strong business model and solid relationships with suppliers and customers can make or break a sale.
"We treat all customers the same, regardless of how
much they are paying," explains
"Competition is good," he laughs.
Top Producer for Sandals and Beaches Resorts
Sandra Smith is co-owner, with her husband, David Smith, of Directional Strategies Travel, an agency specializing in honeymoon travel and destination weddings.
In 2006, the Royal Oak, MI-based agency was the top-selling
company for Sandals and Beaches Resorts. Smith had a proactive approach to
setting off on the trail to becoming the top-producer for Sandals. Five years
ago, when she was thinking of switching suppliers, she flew down to
"We invested our time and money and determined that Sandals resorts were wonderful," says Smith. "The other resorts didn't have the branding and marketing of Sandals."
Another factor for Smith was customer recognition of Sandals. "This had a lot to do with Sandals' print advertising in bridal magazines," she says. "A couple will see such an ad and yearn for the same experience. We tell them we can get it for them. We fulfill their dream."
After her initial research trip, Smith approached Sandals with a request. "We told them we needed their help in bringing our people in for training, and to be included in upcoming fams, that we needed brochures and a contact person to help us with questions," says Smith. "They were skeptical at first, but when they saw how we performed, and the success of our Sandals nights, they were convinced."
On the day of the interview with Travel Agent, Smith
was packing for the next day's flight to
"We know the product intimately," she says. "We believe in directing business. Our success was never about putting heads in beds—it was based on 'suite success.' We believe our clients deserve to be in suites."
Smith has some advice for agents who want to become top producers. "When you spread yourself too thin, you become a generalist instead of a specialist," she says. "Specialize in a destination and the products in that destination. Educate yourself. And then make a decision about who you want to partner with."
Smith also believes agents gain a real advantage when they know the people they're doing business with on a day-to-day basis, from the golf pro to the general manager at the resort.
—By Daniel Butcher, David Eisen, Joe Pike, Mark Rogers
and Debbie Strong