Travel Agent recently interviewed leading agents and suppliers to get their views on the current economic downturn, as well as their advice for ways that agents can capitalize on it. In this exclusive online series, we present the complete Q&As with these industry experts. Next up is Julia Aliseo, a travel agent at Cruise Planners.
TA: What are you doing now to take advantage of the downturn?
I am not waiting for clients to call. I am utilizing my client profiles and making calls with many of the fabulous offers out there today that will help them to look forward to a vacation next year, asking for a deposit now with final payment due in the future with time to budget!
TA: Are you focusing on using your down time to educate yourself?
I use my down time to stay on the cutting edge of the travel industry, with the various cruise line courses, familiarizing myself with new products. These courses are featuring sales and marketing tips and highlighting the many new ships and itineraries.
Also, I take time to research and visit different resort websites for special offers. Our Cruise Planners CPU (agent-at-home training programs) continue to offer exclusive webinars on a weekly basis as part of the continuous training program available to all Cruise Planner owner/agents at their leisure with the opportunity to review these sessions anytime via the intranet site that all agents have access to.
TA: Are you using it to gain a competitive advantage while others are going into hibernation?
TA: How do you market during a downturn?
Repeat business is available to all agents, all you need to do is ask for the business! Besides calling my clients, I use our weekly e-mail flyers that are sent to clients that are in my database and ask that they share these promotional offers with family and friends even if they are not ready to plan a vacation. Referrals are the best compliment any agent can receive!
TA: How do you reach the customer who is receiving a barrage of deal offers?
A personal note added to our offers, giving them the opportunity to opt out of the e-mail or mailing list is a courteous way of asking for business and giving them a choice.
TA: How are you keeping your staff morale upbeat?
I offer support and encouragement to my associate agents by giving ideas that they can use to attract new business and make sure they utilize the opportunities that are out there. They participate in our Corporate Educational programs, go to travel agent and trade shows, and are encouraged to take the time now to set goals for the upcoming year with a business plan. I advise my agents to write their goals, as this can be the morale booster one needs to stay excited about their future in this business. If you do not have a written plan, the future of any business is in jeopardy! I remind them to be creative and step outside the box or their comfort zone. Take an idea and make it a reality. Make it fun for you, the agent!
An example: If the agent has wanted to go to Alaska, as so few new agents have experienced Alaska, I suggest they create a group, reserve the group space and send post cards (available free from all cruise lines) or an e-flyer available on all cruise line websites, to each and every person they know personally and to their entire client base. Write a personal note that can be copied at the printer stating, "You are INVITED to join me on an Adventure to ALASKA! Save the date and call me for the best available cabin!"
I want to see my agents increase their sales, even if it is a difficult time. When you can accomplish such goals, it is a morale booster. This is a way to do so and to have a learning experience at the same time.
You can attract clients that are planning vacations, looking for an adventure! Offer personalized service and establish relationships rather than simply going after a sale. People enjoy traveling together and like to be part of a group, and in this example, the agent looks forward to a new experience and destination while increasing their sales with the group, this becomes a win-win.
Once my agents achieve specific sales goals, they are rewarded with an increased commission structure. Earning more money is the one thing that keeps us all happy!