|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
Whenever an anniversary rolls around, it’s fun to look back, but I’m also a big proponent of using the occasion to look ahead. For that reason, on the occasion of Travel Agent’s 80th birthday, I’ve pulled together some ideas on how to keep your business thriving.
Use your power. As a travel agent, you’re a valuable distribution arm for suppliers, so let them help you sell. If you have a client with special concerns or simply want them to be recognized, make yourself known by contacting the travel agent liaisons we use in our stories. They are there just for this reason!
The next time someone tells you they booked their own travel over the Internet, ask them how much time they spent on it. Look amused when they tell you it took them four or five hours. Maybe even giggle a bit. Tell them they could have flown to the Caribbean or Hawaii in that time.
Don’t assume you know what your clients want. Years ago, I worked for a travel agency where an agent insisted all of her young honeymooners go to the same resort, no matter who they were. Young people often have more money than we realize and more sophisticated tastes than we can imagine.
Always ask your clients where their next adventure is going to be. Delight and entice them with the pleasures that travel can bring. Downplay the travails that take place at the airport and paint a picture of what it will be like when they’re sitting on the terrace of their hotel suite with the ocean breeze blowing through their hair.
Use every touch point possible to let clients know what you’re capable of. Send them examples of great itineraries you’ve prepared for others and approach them with new, creative ideas constantly, or someone else will!
Along those lines, let your clients know how much you travel. This impresses people. Send photos of yourself riding an elephant, or standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. This is the expertise clients are looking for; they’ll even brag about you to their friends and neighbors.
Engage your clients throughout the process. Don’t accept their deposits and forget about them. In this economy, some clients cancel trips out of guilt or fear even though they may lose their deposit. Send them fun updates every few weeks about the ports they’ll be visiting or delight them with restaurant recommendations and shopping tips, right up until they’re set to leave.
Charge fees. I can’t believe it’s almost 2011 and I’m still saying it, but you shouldn’t give it away for free. You’re not a travel agent because you like to do volunteer work. You work to feed your family, remember?
Do volunteer, but in other ways. Become part of a church or school group so you can connect with others while doing good. Let everyone know what you do: the travel agent part, not the “doing good” part.
Create a business plan and set goals for 2011 and 2012. Your business is only going to get better from here on, as the economy picks up and people continue to travel. Where do you want your business to be in five years? Think on it, imagine it, and it will come true.
Have fun. The next 80 years will go by quickly! Travel your hearts out and gain all the knowledge you can about the world so you can share it with your clients.