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Collaborators-Sue Seto/Avalon
NAME:
Sue Seto
TITLE: Group specialist
LOCATION: Toronto
COMPANY: Globus family of brands
YEARS IN TRAVEL: 9

 

Of all things, it was fashion that led to Sue Seto’s passion for travel.

The group specialist for Avalon Waterways is nine years into her current career in the travel industry (all at the Globus family of brands) but credits her first vocation for inspiring her to change gears.

“I studied fashion at Ryerson [University] and worked for Canadian designer Wayne Clark for 12 years,” she recalls. “I really got the travel bug when I was learning about fashion around the world, [so] I decided to look for a second career and took a diploma in Travel and Tourism.”

That led to a job at Globus – at first in reservations, then later in groups – and now her passion truly lies in travel. And it’s a quality that has not gone unnoticed.

“I have been selling group river cruises with Sue for a number of years now,” says TravelOnly travel counsellor Janice Carter. “Why? Because from my first bookings, she returned my calls, answered my questions, offered me suggestions and tips on how better to do things, sent invoices promptly, taught me how to read those invoices and, most importantly, will review things with me when I ask, ‘Sue, am I missing anything?’ Through all of this, she is patient, kind and professional! Is she perfect? No. But almost!”

Seto is humbled by the compliment. “It makes me very happy and appreciative,” she says, noting that the key to being a great collaborator to travel counsellors is being “passionate” about her work.

“I really care about my files, beyond securing the booking and having the docs sent out,” she says. “I love to hear about how the group went. And most of all, I love making a booking without any flaws!”

Born in Oshawa, Ont., but a long-time Toronto resident, the Globus call centre associate adds, “If I have a difficult file, I never hesitate to stay late after work to make sure the work is done or resolved. Customer service is extremely important to me so I’m willing to go the extra mile to keep our clients happy.”

Seto recalls one of her most difficult bookings: “I once managed to book 74 passengers on a river cruise and coordinated air for everyone in two weeks– something that normally can take six months.”

She says she expects to handle about 50 groups alone in 2018 while getting the ball rolling for more in 2019. “During our busy season, I could have multiple agents from different groups contacting me daily plus handling new inquiries.”

Of course, Seto’s expertise is founded on more than just her enthusiasm. “Having personally experienced a number of Avalon/Globus family products, I think I know my product really well – especially Avalon – and love to share that knowledge,” she says, adding, “I try to keep myself and the agents organized by always reminding them of the extras we offer, such as airport transfers, when the payments are due and so on. And I have to say that I’m very organized – and I guess the agents appreciate that.”

Seto is also quick to remind agents that she and her teammates are there to help. “In reservations and in groups we try never to say no, and we also try to accommodate exceptions when we can. We’re truly here to help you.”

So how to best collaborate with a Globus collaborator? Says Seto: “There are so many ways we can make agents’ lives easier. We welcome questions, of course, but it’s great if they can e-mail them rather than phone them in, so if I have to ask a colleague overseas for the answer, I know I’m forwarding exactly the correct query. And although we can hold group space for several months, it’s much easier for them to send along names and deposit info as soon as they come in.”

As for groups, Seto offers the following tip: “I’d have to say it’s probably wisest to block space on one departure or one cruise and promote the heck out of it, rather than blocking group space on several itineraries and ending up selling four people on this departure and five on that.”

And don’t forget, she adds, to suggest to your ocean-cruising clients to give river cruising a try. “They come back saying they like the small size of the ship and the chance to get to know all the other passengers. It’s a much more intimate, personal experience.”

Other recommendations? Looking for “tempting but time-limited” offers such as early booking bonuses, no single supplements or pre-paid gratuities promotions; consider having your BDM give a presentation – clients who book within two weeks of that will receive further incentives; and consider themed cruises for clients who have interests such as art, wine, history, jazz, beer or even golf. There are also new Active Discovery cruises with shore excursions such as guided bike tours or culinary walking tours, all included in the price.

Still, the best advice Seto has, bar none, is for agents to go on a cruise. “I really believe agents should take advantage of our travel agent discounts and experience it themselves,” she says. “Agents who don’t understand our product sometimes struggle with the concept. A lot of my largest groups, 50 to 70 passengers, come from agents who have been on an Avalon cruise before.”

And don’t discount repeat clientele. “We work with a group of doctors who in the past have blocked almost half a ship and it has been so successful that they have actually upgraded to full-ship charters!” she says.

Of course, everything isn’t always smooth sailing and Seto says she never enjoys delivering bad news to agents, especially situations that are beyond her control, such as high water that might necessitate switching ships mid-cruise. “When it happens, that’s tough for everyone: for us, for the agent, for the client.

“Luckily,” she adds, “it’s very rare and Globus/Avalon always really looks after the clients – I’ve seen it!” And, clearly, done it herself.

 

 

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