In the December issue of CT Magazine, we explore the value of specialisations. More and more travel advisors are focusing their energy on specific niche markets, and it's paying off in spades. Here, we speak with Laurie Keith, president of Romantic Planet Vacations, who built a business focusing exclusively on destination weddings and honeymoons.
1. What is your niche and why did you choose it?
Our niche is destination weddings. I started working in the travel industry more than 20 years ago and watched first-hand how the new-found Internet was transforming our industry. As super conglomerate online agencies began to take over and suppliers started selling direct to the public, I decided then that you had to be different by offering a specialised service that nobody else provided; something that couldn't be booked online. After researching destination weddings and learning that the expected number of weddings to occur by Canadians outside Canada was expected to climb from seven per cent to fifteen per cent in the next five years, I found our niche and opened up a wholesale travel company, called Romantic Planet Vacations, to specialise in destination weddings.
2. How has choosing a niche has impacted your business and your success?
Choosing a niche positioned our business as an instant leader in destination weddings in Canada, shortly after we opened in 2004. As a wholesaler at the time, we were able to aid other travel agents in serving this new and ever-growing market by obtaining direct group contracts from suppliers and providing wedding planning services as well.
3. In terms of marketing yourself and your business, what do you do to ensure consumers are aware of your niche and refer to you as a specialist?
The words "destination weddings" are in our company logo and located in all of our marketing collateral and website. We are also proud members of the Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist Association and Wedding Planners Institute of Canada.
4. Describe the top qualities necessary in an individual who might be considering this niche for their own business.
The most important qualities necessary to become a destination wedding specialist is product knowledge, attention to detail, high eagerness to serve your clients well, and acute problem solving skills.
5. What are the biggest challenges of your niche?
The biggest challenges that I see in our niche is that destination weddings are becoming more mainstream and less niche these days. It seems everybody wants to have a piece of the destination wedding pie without committing to becoming dedicated destination wedding specialists. It's a unique niche that requires unique training and true commitment to serving this specialized market. Our agency now recruits, trains and hosts dedicated outside destination wedding specialists across Canada so they can be set-up for true success -- both for themselves and for the consumer. We also continue to sell "niche within the niche" wholesale destination wedding packages to unique destinations or off-property wedding venues worldwide.
6. What are the biggest rewards of your niche?
Not only can it be financially rewarding, the biggest reward is that you get to be a part of something significant and memorable in someone's life. Your service has a direct impact on a wedding couple's dream wedding and the enjoyment and the coming-together of friends and family to celebrate such an occasion. Seeing joyous wedding photos and receiving thank you letters and gifts upon their return is, in my opinion, the biggest reward anyone could receive as a travel agent.
7. Generally speaking, why would you recommend travel advisors choose a niche?
Choosing a niche really helps you stand out from the crowd and sets you up for success. The world is a big place with much travel product that it would be impossible to know and sell it all well. Focusing your energy in one key area will result in a level of expertise that consumers are looking for and need.