Think back to when you first started your career working as a travel advisor. In your excitement, you probably pursued every individual travel lead that came your way, right? And it worked, you built your book of business, but you were exhausted after a few years. It was not sustainable. There’s a better way to do business for the long term, and that’s by attracting it to you.
Position yourself as a subject matter expert
Step one is to position yourself as a subject matter expert and then get that message out into your community.
“The first thing you must do is become an expert rather than merely say you are!” said Eric J. Goldring, owner of Goldring Travel. “That involves immersing yourself in the subject matter (for me, it’s luxury and expedition travel) through reading whatever you can get your hands on, attending seminars, getting on the ships or tours … and using them to educate yourself about the product and how it differs from others. And, very importantly, write about them. Whether it is a blog or just notes to yourself, make a resource that you and/or your clients can refer to. Show off your experience and, thus, your expertise.”
Choose a niche that you’re passionate about
Although you may start out as a travel generalist, consider specializing in a niche that you’re passionate about. When you do that and immerse yourself in the places where people who share that passion gather, both online and offline, their travel business will naturally find its way to you.
Goldring, for instance, is passionate about expedition travel, as he explained, having always focused on biology and environmental matters. And bringing that real-life engagement to his clients, who previously had little more than television experiences in expedition travel, is nothing short of amazing and truly fulfilling for both him and his clients.
Write about your travel specialty
Having an active blog of your own or writing travel articles for a local news outlet sets you up as an authority in travel and gives you instant credibility. The more you write, the better. The key to being found on Google and other search engines is consistently producing original content with sufficient subject matter depth. Be sure that your content is educational and not overly promotional. It can include travelogues, travel product/brand reviews, news, and opinion pieces.
Sell and escort groups
Another tried-and-true way to attract multiple new clients with less effort, rather than seeking them out one at a time, is to sell and escort groups. Travel advisors often start off with planning trips to places they will personally enjoy, and hosting friends and family to join as a group traveling together. From there, the group business portion of your revenues can expand just as much as you wish.
Goldring has selling groups in one of his designated niches down to a science, as he relayed: “Once a year, I have a Culinary & Cultural Cruise on a luxury line. I limit it to no more than 14 guests and create two or three extraordinary experiences (private tastings at Chateaux Margaux (wine) and Highland Park (scotch); walking history/culinary/wine tour in Corfu; harvesting caviar in Uruguay; curated behind-the-scenes tours and sustainable seafood luncheon with marine biologists in Boston; a full-day, hands-on cooking class in Rome) coupled with private culinary events onboard the ship curated with the executive chef and sommeliers.
“These C&C Cruises assist in creating my ‘brand’ and a following. Many potential clients read about it and say, ‘That sounds amazing. I can’t do it this year, but it got me thinking about X or Y for this year. Maybe I can do your C&C next year.’”
Get your clients talking about you
When your clients start advocating for you, talking about the wonderful travel experiences that you suggested and delivered for them, that word of mouth acts like a magnet that attracts even more clients.
So how do you get them to spread the good word about you? By providing personalized service that exceeds expectations and a level of comfort whereby they know that you have taken care of everything, pre-trip, during, and post-trip. Creating loyalty is a long-term play that will have clients and their referrals returning to you to book again and again.
Also, always work to strengthen those client relationships by making a simple bon voyage call and a warm welcome home call to them. It doesn’t cost anything - and they will remember that you cared enough to actually call in our overwhelmingly digital world.
Be a resource
Every travel advisor has a story about a client who came in asking for X, but after further exploration, it was clear that they really wanted Y. In order to have the confidence to make recommendations about travel options that they may not have thought of, you have to do your homework in advance.
You have to know the big brands (that perhaps attract more touristy types) and those that are not necessarily on the travel marketing radar of the masses (and that tend to attract a different type of more in-depth traveler), so you can find the product that best hits the hot button for that particular client. You are not just a booker of travel; you are a resource and an advisor that they will want to turn to for future trips.
Parting advice for new travel advisors
“Understand that it will take time for you to be profitable,” said Goldring. “Not only do you have to create a pool of clients, in most instances you will have to wait months or even years to be paid commissions on those bookings. Use that time to create your brand, understand what your passions are, and get out there both to learn and to be seen.
“Chasing every bit of potential business will wear you down physically and emotionally. So remember that one $10,000 booking earns you as much as ten $1,000 bookings … and you only have to deal with two people, not 20!”
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