Whether it's finding a niche or investing in learning, travel agents all have different priorities when it comes to growing their business. Ask around and you may learn that there's no need to reinvent the wheel with technology or social media; sometimes it's tried-and-true methods that can have the greatest impact. Here, we've compiled insight from top-selling travel advisors, who share their top secrets to success.
1. Invest in personal travel opportunities.
When you have been in destination – eaten in local restaurants, travelled by train in Europe, driven a car on the other side of the road, manoeuvred complex airports and figured out how to navigate thru a city in a language you don’t comprehend – you can pass all of those insights and tips on to clients. Your presentation and demeanour reflect confidence and clients trust you and your recommendations and your arrangements for clients reflect the destination. Before I became a professional myself, I booked travel through a number of agents and often the arrangements were not as good as they could be; I took this observation into my own travel business, resolving to be more proactive and practical for my clients by travelling. My corporate clients in particular value my insight in destinations and I use my personal travel opportunities to visit locations I know my clients will be booking and therefore, am able to suggest options I know they will enjoy. – Coralie Belman CTM, Let’s Get Out of Here
2. Be a salesperson, first and foremost.
To be a successful travel advisor, you have to be sales driven. I know there are many who might say that the objective is to find the right vacation for the right customer and to create memories that last a lifetime; that aim is very important but we should never lose sight of the fact that we are salespeople first and foremost. The very structure of the industry is geared towards rewarding sales. Commissions, agent incentives, gift cards – you name it – we love it! – Lesley Keyter, Founder and CEO, The Travel Lady Agency
3. Build your business through repeat guests & referrals.
Number one is repeat guests and referrals. I have built my client base solely on referrals. Marketing within my community is a key focus as the base of my business (friends & family/repeat and referrals) are from out of town. Working with my community and local sports organizations are extremely important. We feel it is important that we give back to the community in various sports organizations and local fundraising. – Anie Chevrier, The Travel Boutique
4. Focus your attention & energy.
Many agents start out in the business being a "jack of all trades." It is hard to turn away potential customers so we take everything – the air requests, the Vegas weekends, the last minute fly and flops. The problem with this is if you are a "jack of all trades" you can never be an expert in all of them. The best thing I have learned in travel is that focus is the most important. A good example would be destination weddings. There are agents I know who can turn out 60 or more groups a year. They do this well because they know the product, they know their customer and they know how to close the deal. They have my utmost admiration! When you first start to focus on specific niche destinations or experiences, it can be scary to start turning people away but you have to be strong and do it. Customers will respect the fact that you have an area of expertise and that you believe in yourself and have the courage to say so. When they are ready to book that African safari or that private tour of Vietnam they will remember you because you stood out. – Lesley Keyter, Founder and CEO, The Travel Lady Agency
5. Learn all you can about the business.
Tour operators, airlines and tourist boards have webinars on a regular basis. Knowledge is the key; don’t try to fake it. Travellers these days are very knowledgeable and they will move on very quickly to another agent if you try to snow them. If you don’t know something, just be up front and tell your client that you don’t have that information but that you will be more than happy to find out for them. Your honesty will be appreciated. – Ethel Hansen Davey, Uniglobe Enterprise Travel Ltd.
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This piece was brought to you by Air Canada, as part of the airline’s ongoing efforts to support travel agents. ACTA members click here to access Air Canada’s ACTA Training program for agencies.