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 Michael Rotondo, director of travel for AAA Travel New York in Garden City, NY.
TA: What are you doing now to take advantage of the downturn?
Extensive, detailed training and specific marketing.
TA: Are you focusing on using your down time to educate yourself?
Yes, our training manager has scheduled more training this year then any other year. Our efforts include the usual vendor training, but we took it even further this year and asked the vendors to bring in specific hoteliers or convention bureaus that are related to our yearly marketing plans. We also held customer service classes and Internet/intranet classes.
TA: Are you using it to gain a competitive advantage while others are going into hibernation?
Absolutely, that is certainly our plan. Although, some of our marketing initiatives have been reduced, we will continue to market ourselves, our products and the excellent service our company has been providing for more than 100 years. If you go the extra steps needed with a customer during these months of downturn, then you will have a loyal customer when the better times return.
TA: How do you market during a downturn?
We have been reviewing reports more closely to determine local and current selling trends, then we market those products almost exclusively. This is not the year for us to try new destinations or vendors. We will stick with what we know best and what our members want.
TA: How do you reach the customer who is receiving a barrage of deal offers?
We have been utilizing our CRM initiatives to get the right products via the right means to the right person at the right time. This means utilizing all of our marketing efforts of print and e-commerce.
TA: How do you cut through the fray?
By staying focused and being determined to meet the goals we set for 2009.
TA: How are you keeping your staff morale upbeat?
We continue to provide incentives and rewards, and continually recognize good performance.