What are the keys to the success of a travel agency?
Consistency, a commitment to learn and a plan for the future are some of the most essential elements needed for success, a travel consultant told a panel of agency hosts, consortia and franchise executives. .
The panel, “Leadership and the Importance of Consortia, Franchisors, and Host Agencies That Represent Your Interests” was moderated by Anne Marie Moebes, editor of Travel Market Report, and was one of many offered to business attendees at the first New York Travel & Adventure Show.
Characteristics of Top Advisors
When asked about the characteristics they see in their top performing advisors, panelists agreed that consistency in engagement, a commitment to education, and a business-oriented attitude are the most likely predictors of success.
“Those who succeed tend to do the same things,” said Ignacio Maza, executive vice president of Signature Travel Network. “First, they engage. They engage with the network they belong to…, they engage with their travel partners, and they engage with their best customers.
His choice of the word “best” was no accident for Maza, who cited the 80/20 rule. (Twenty percent of customers in most companies generate 80% of profits.)
“They view it as a business and not a charity,” he said of Signature’s most successful agencies. “They focus on their best customers and the people who are time-consuming and not worth it, they let them go.”
Maza added that part of a business-minded mindset is to think long-term. Don’t just think about the trip you are planning for a client now. Ask them about the holidays or the upcoming summer. “We need to think about our best customers and have a plan, not just for today but for the future…so that you have a continuous loop of possible future journeys that your customer is attached to and you are attached to them. .”
Commitment to education was a priority for several of the panelists, including Dan Hicks, Vice President of Franchise Development at Cruise Planners. “You have to stay educated. Don’t just take our courses. All providers also offer courses. Shows like this are crucial for your education…do the familiarization trips. Learn about the world. The more education you have, the more money you will earn because you will be able to sell more.
Nexion President Jackie Friedman agreed, but said advisers shouldn’t try to learn too much. “If you think you’re going to know everything, you’re wrong. If you focus on fewer things and get to know them well, whether it’s your niche or the type of customer you want to sell to, that will help you get up and running from an education perspective and that will help you to be more effective from a marketing point of view.
Nancy Bennett, senior vice president of global sales at TRAVELSAVERS also insisted on becoming a specialist. “Learn about something that really interests you…become an expert, decide which niche is right for you, and market yourself,” she said.
James R. Ferrara, co-founder and president of InteleTravel, agreed that education is important, but cautioned advisers not to get stuck on education. “You have to do all that training, but it’s all on track. At some point, you have to take off.
Ferrara said that among InteleTravel’s top performing advisors, creativity and courage are the characteristics he sees most often. The courage to be creative in marketing and creating different types of vacation products to sell, such as Holy Land tours led by well-known church leaders or mega-Zumba cruises, both of which are types trips that InteleTravel advisors have planned.
Keep your bike in balance
Friedman offered an analogy to help counselors visualize how to balance all there is to know.
“When you think of a bicycle, there are two wheels. The wheels are the same size and they are balanced. That front wheel is your soft skills, your sales skills, your marketing skills, your communication, the way you should do business. The back wheel of the bike is your knowledge, destination knowledge, booking tool knowledge. The thing you want to keep in mind as you progress through your career is to keep your bike balanced.
New Consultants with sales skills from old jobs might need to “pump air” into their back tire. Others might need air in both of their tires. As business needs change, advisors may need to pump air into their front tire to learn new types of marketing.
Plan for future growth
To prepare for the future, panel members recommended having a plan, sticking to it, and keeping your customer database on top.
“It starts with a plan,” Friedman said. “Know your why. Your why is ‘why are you in this business in the first place and what are the high level goals for your business.’ Then break it down and set yourself some very specific goals… Develop a tactical plan. What are you going to do to achieve these goals? The most important things are to have a plan, make sure you work the plan, review the plan and adjust it, and celebrate the small successes along the way.
Maza agreed. “Some of the most successful people are those who had a plan and stayed the course despite the storm.”
Bennett added that marketing needs to be an essential part of business plans, which was especially important over the past two years. “Agencies are doing an amazing job for themselves, because many of them have led by example. They travel and promote it on social media. They encourage the desire to travel and that incentive to dream in their clients. .
Maza also suggested that agency owners and advisors take the time to clean up their client databases. Get rid of contacts that are no longer good and track down leads you may have missed. Agencies that took the time during the pandemic downturn to clean up their database “are seeing 50%, 60%, 70% year-over-year growth because they’re much more efficient and effective “, did he declare.
Industry advocacy starts with you
One issue raised by Moebes during the roundtable was the role of ASTA and agency organizations like the groups the panelists belong to in advocating for the industry. Friedman, who sits on the ASTA board, said the advocacy is not for the ASTA alone, nor just for the panelists’ organizations.
“Advocacy does not start and end with ASTA. They are the conductor but we are the orchestra and you have to understand the power of your own voice,” she said.
In many cases, ASTA – and Host, Consortium and Franchise groups – can provide guidance and communication templates for agency owners and advisors to contact on their own.
“Our organizations don’t have as much power as you, the voters of a particular area. But we can give you the tools and resources to be an effective advocate.