December. The end of the year, a time when people are closing the book on the previous year and thinking about resolutions and goals for the year ahead. It's the same, if not more important, for businesses to be doing the same.
Travel Market Report reached out to travel advisors to find out how they wrap up their year and what they do to position themselves for an amazing next year.
For almost all, the tasks and activities they set for themselves in December are alongside continuing to service their current clients, many of whom are actively booking travel.
Eric Jensen, owner of Pocket Map Travel, said he plans "quite a few" winter holiday trips and spring trips at this time of year. "My goal by mid-December is to complete all the bookings and details for these trips – and any other that I'm already working on for next year – so I'm ready for new business that comes in January, February, and March."
Having every wrapped up before the end of the year is something most advisors said they aspire to.
"I love January because I feel like it's a 'clean slate' every year to start fresh," said Rhonda Day, owner of a Dream Vacations.
Here are five things advisors told TMR they do to wrap up each year and prepare for next year's clean slate. Check out Part 2 (going live soon) for five more things.
1. Sales push
With time running out on the current year, several travel advisors we spoke with said they make a strong push to reach or exceed any sales goals they had set.
"If I'm close to reaching a sales milestone, I do a targeted push to get me to my goal and personally reach out to my best clients," said Fern Robles, MBA, MIR, ACC, CATP, owner of a Cruise Planners Franchise. "Sometimes, that's the only thing they need to book their next vacation."
Gail Lea, senior travel consultant at Direct Travel, told TMR she starts her push with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
"I reach out to my preferred clients who trust my experience and if they miss the Black Friday sale, I still follow up to get as many booked before Christmas. It's an investment of time that usually proves fruitful."
Debralee Lebron, operations manager and travel consultant at Jus Adventures Travel Services, said they also make use of Black Friday, but they use it to promote one of their own group trips that's departing the next year.
"We like to create some buzz and get people thinking about traveling in the New Year," she said. "We offer a 'Black Friday' or 'Cyber Monday' discount on one of the group trips… to try and create some revenue for the last month of the year when it's normally quite slow."
The push for end-of-year business can also include working to close any open proposals or pending bookings.
"Our team closes any pending travel proposals to meet or exceed current annual sales goals," said Cynthia Connelly-Paxton, CTA, owner of Travel Advisor Team.
2. Prepare for WAVE
While some advisors are actively working to hit their current sales goals, others are looking ahead to the busy first quarter of the next year.
"I think the big piece is slowing down to speed up around WAVE season marketing, as well as staying abreast of what is popular and trending for next year as we go into the busiest time of the year," said Ryan Warshaw, owner of Epic Jaunts.
"For year-end, I familiarize myself with any WAVE promotions that our vendors release early to get ready for the season," Robles said.
Scott Wismont, CTA, owner of Rainbow Getaway, echoed Robles. "I use the time to start game planning which WAVE promotions I want to focus on in the coming months," he said, adding he also double checks his internal processes are up-to-date so he can jump right into WAVE season.
Penny Rushing, owner of Four Points Travel, LLC, said she makes a list of clients "that I want to contact regarding the WAVE season promotions…"
3. Tidy up
Clutter is inescapable. It creeps into everything, spreads when you're not looking, and can slow down productivity. For advisors' lucky enough to see a slowdown in December, the month can be a great time to clean up all the cutter.
"My year-end involves organizing my desk and files, and removing old brochures" Terri Henderson, president at Geneva Travel & Cruise, Inc., told TMR.
Adam Martindale, owner of a Cruise Planners franchise, said he cleans up his database, as does Jensen.
"I make sure I've entered all client names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. That way I can send holiday greetings and be ready to send WAVE season special offers that fit client travel profiles," Jensen said.
Four Points Travel's Rushing said she also checks over her social media accounts to make sure it's up to date with her agency's information, as well as for any changes to suppliers and/or upcoming promotions.
Rebekah Law, CCC, another Cruise Planners franchise owner, told TMR she also takes care of things like renewing her CLIA membership and other "pressing" logistics, in order to "set me on a clan course for the new year – knowing I'm heading into it with an orderly and organized environment within which my creativity and vision can thrive."
4. Reach out and "touch" clients
Every travel advisor knows the importance of staying in contact with their clients, especially their top clients, and the holiday season is the perfect time to send a greeting.
"This is a great time to touch base with your clients thank them for the opportunity to serve them, and check in with those you haven't served in a while," said Law. "I prefer handwritten Christmas cards – or small gifts to the more loyal clients) over a generic email blast."
"Usually at the end of the year is when I sort my client database by top spending client, sending out holiday cards to my top 250 clients and gifts to the top 20," said Martindale.
Kathleen Penner, CTA, owner of Plenty of Sunshine Travel, makes handwritten Christmas cards for all her clients. "I send them a nice Christmas card/holiday greeting and it is handwritten and personalized to them… Included in those Christmas cards is a bookmark with all of our group cruises for the next year on it."
"I have calendars with our name contact info, and website," said Becky Luka, owner of Tour Group Planners. "I send those out in December along with a list of all our group trips open for sale."
Melissa Lee, an advisor at Royal Travel, sends her correspondence at the start of the new year.
"I plan, now, a mailing to send to my clients mid-January 2024 to entice them to plan and book travel for the remainder of the 2024 year and beyond," she told TMR.
5. End-of-year accounting
Related to tidying up is the need for advisors to get their finances in order heading into the next year. It's one of the most vitally important tasks advisors must tackle at the end of every year. As Epic Jaunts' Warshaw put it, "Taxes will be due before we all know it!"
"December is a pretty active month as I'm preparing to close the year's books," said Wismont. "I take the time to go through and make sure my accounting of transactions is as accurate as possible before tax season starts. I also work to track down any missing commissions that should have been paid during the year…"
"I begin to gather receipts and documents for taxes and start to reconcile credit card statements to separate out business expenses. This is my best use of Excel for the year," said Day.
Pocket Map Travel's Jensen said he also spends time on his bookkeeping, calling it "the least fun task by far."
"But getting all my transactions into the accounting software ensures that I'm ready to for the estimated tax payment on January 15 and that I'll be all set for tax season. I don't want to be working on taxes right at my busiest time for booking travel."
For advisors with employees or independent contractors, end-of-year accounting includes any paperwork necessary to provide them with the documents they'll need to do their taxes.