Five years into her role as a professional travel advisor, Denise
Hanuska has earned glowing praise from both clients and from The
Destination Experts leadership. Key Notes On Travel sits down with
this mover & shaker, whose hard-sell is a personal touch.
Host agency: The Destination Experts
Location: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Years in business: 5
From destination weddings and vow renewals to anniversary celebrations and tailored luxury getaways, no love is too big nor is any detail too small for Denise Hanuska. And although romance is her business, she wasn’t seeking love when it found her.
“I didn’t think I was heading that way, which is interesting,” she says with a laugh. “I really wanted to go toward a luxury niche – which [romance] does encompass.”
Before she was professionally matchmaking lovers with their dream holidays, Hanuska got her toes wet as an office manager. One of her responsibilities included booking corporate travel for her colleagues. As the de facto traveller in her social circle, she found friends and family often consulted her about their holiday plans. But making the leap from hobby agent to professional advisor wasn’t an impulsive pursuit of passion so much as a slow burn. “One day, someone said, ‘You know, if you ever want to make a career change, this should be it.’ I happened to come across an article about The Destination Experts, and it went from there.”
Marketing: What's Old is New Again
As a home-based advisor with the host agency The Destination Experts, Hanuska maps her own marketing plan. And while it appears the hashtag is here to stay, she finds success in employing some traditional marketing strategies that, while not currently in vogue, never went out of fashion. “I do use social media, to a point,” she confesses, but says referrals remain a steadfast source of business.
Although she doesn’t consider herself a natural-born seller, Hanuska never underestimates the value of getting in front of prospective clients. “Usually it’s wedding shows and golf tournament sponsorship or prizing.”
Hosting themed travel showcases have also helped grow her business. “I’ll have BDMs come speak about their products and open it up to the public.” Such events have included Caribbean nights and a cruise event spotlighting AMAWaterways.
The Gentle Upsell (Readers Take Note!)
The Destination Experts founder and president, Deanna Byrne, praises Denise Hanuska for her ability to upsell.
She chuckles when she hears the feedback and humbly explains, “I wouldn’t specifically say I’m an upseller, but I always put those options in front of clients. I think it’s important that they have the choice.”
Hanuska doesn’t say it outright but her upsell mastery is an artful blend of expert product knowledge and gracefully presenting clients with the product they don’t know they actually want.
“Someone will come to me and say, ‘My husband and I would like to go to a Sandals resort and we have this budget.’ Of course I will go back to them with their requested preference, but I always go above and I explain why I recommend that option. It’s not that I’m trying to upsell, I just want to make sure people really get what they want out of their vacation. It’s, ‘I know this is what you want, but just take a look at this option as well, and tell me if it might be more of what you’re actually looking for.’”
Building a Referal-Worthy Business
“She is truly a travel angel, not just a travel agent.”
“…Very intuitive, not at all cookie cutter in her approach.”
What does it take for a travel advisor to achieve such glowing praise from clients? When asked, Hanuska reckons, “I think the biggest reason I might elicit that feedback is because I really listen to what clients need and want; I don’t pre-judge or make assumptions.” Getting off on the right foot is critical, but perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact she is living her passion. For her, it’s not business – it’s personal.
“It’s not just a matter of making the booking and, ‘Off you go!’
I really do like handling everyone individually and helping them along the way. For every client, I put together a package which includes all the necessary documents. If I can, I will assemble a resort or ship package with restaurants and a map. It always comes with a thank-you note and a little gift, depending on who the client is or the size of the group.”
The Human Connection
What’s more, the one thing every traveller who books with an OTA won’t ever experience is what Hanuska truly excels at.
“Before they depart, I’ll ask the client how they prefer to communicate. Once they’ve been in-destination for a full day, I’ll text or e-mail and ask how it’s going, just to make sure everything is as it should be. Post-travel, I send a quick e-mail to welcome them home.”
She pauses for a moment before making one last, very important caveat: “But no smothering!”