Four Ideas to Ponder about Super-Specialization

by Steve Gillick

The decision to specialize in your travel career is a reflection of your business acumen. It shows that you recognize the incredible array of special interests that travelers want to explore, as well as the expectation that just about anything is possible. It's the travel version of the Nike slogan where "Nothing is impossible" evolved into "Impossible…is nothing." 

Internet-savvy travel multi-taskers (those who wish to do as much as possible on a holiday with customized activities that reflect their interests) usually counter the question “what else" with "why not?" And therefore you need to dig deeper into your specialty and uncover niches, and then niches within niches.   

Guess what? You've just entered the world of “super specialization.”   

Here are four tips to help you along the way. 

1. Dig Deeper into Your Database.  
The client interview is a crucial relationship-builder. It allows you to probe into the reasons why clients want to travel, their expectations, what they wish they could do if it were possible—and their definition of “value.”   

Once you have this information entered into your database, you can creatively play with the results. How many clients listed “cruising” on their wish list? Then break it down:  What kind of cruising (ocean, sailing, small ship, luxury, rivers and waterways, etc.)?  

Then break it down into areas for cruising: Europe, Asia, South America, South Pacific, Caribbean, etc.   

Continue to sub-divide into interests that complement cruising: history, photography, nature, wildlife, culinary, literary, sports, music, golf, spa, family, etc. Then once again, subdivide each interest into special interests. “Music” may be Big Band or Jazz or Symphonic or Hip Hop.  “Culinary” might include chocolate making, wine of a general nature or with a specific focus (Bordeaux, Malbec, Pinot Noir), Michelin-star restaurants, cheese tours, cooking classes, morning markets, and more. So in this example, cruising is the main travel activity, but the divisions into niches and sub-niches better define the clients' needs and expectations. 

2. Define your Business.  
The term “super specialist” is a general industry description or designation for those who seek to customize their clients' travel wish list. It is doubtful that a consumer will look up “super specialist” on Google in order to find one. People are looking for personable travel consultants who have mastered certain areas of travel and have the proven ability through experience, knowledge and research, and supplier relationships and local connections to make things happen.   

You most likely would not want to be known strictly as the Dark Chocolate Waterways Specialist, based on a few tours you organized for niche-interest travelers, but rather as a Cruise Specialist who has intimate knowledge of the industry, a creative mind, a ton of connections to suppliers and local movers and shakers that can make things happen, as well as a growing customer database with testimonials and referrals to back this up.    

3. Seek out the Endless Possibilities. 
Each of the following specialists found that once they delved into the niche, other sub-niches arose. This kind of specialization results in: 

  • New sources of revenue, as consumers pay upfront for expertise, while commissions and markups reimburse for special arrangements that add up to “value” for the client. 
  • Aside from consumer satisfaction, travel consultants re-energize their careers by looking into aspects of travel that they themselves enjoy.   

Some examples from the Canadian travel industry include: 

a)  Anne Brobyn, Hibiscus Tours International Ltd.

  • Specialty: Business Travel    
  • Niche: Caribbean Travel    
  • Niche within a Niche: Caribbean Real Estate Tourism  
  • Niche within a Niche within a Niche: Real Estate Business and Incentive Travel 

b) David Lowy, president and luxury travel advisor, Renshaw Travel

  • Specialty: Luxury Travel   
  • Niche:Unique Adventures and Super-Luxury Travel   
  • Niche within a Niche:Galactic Travel 

c)  Marianne Vogel, Just for You Travel

  • Specialty: Cruises and Vacations   
  • Niche: Seniors Travel   
  • Niche within a Niche:Seniors Accessibility Travel

d)  Rade Sekulic, president, Hospitality Tours

  • Specialty: Group Tours   
  • Niche: Music, Architecture, Art, and Show Tours    
  • Niche within a Niche: Orchestra and Choral Tours             
  • Niche within a Niche within a Niche: Travel for individual music artists and conductors 

 
4. Start Spreading the Word.
Marketing your super-specialist abilities can take many forms including: 

  • Word of mouth. Ask for testimonials and referrals from your clients and showcase them on your website, and in a prominent place in your office. 
  • Internet. Story-board your website to truly reflect what you do—with lots of photos and fewer words. Remember you're selling value, not price; you’re selling imaginative dreams of going somewhere…not a wall of words. 
  • Social media. Learn to promote your super-specialty through online relationship-building (rather than “advertising”). Write your blogs or posts or updates with the final consumer reaction in mind, that is, "Wow, how do I find out more?"  
  • Cross-marketing. Team up with neighborhood suppliers whose business relates to your specialty (even marginally), such as book stores, chocolate shops, liquor stores, camera stores, clothing, luggage, ethnic restaurants). 
  • Community relations. Team with like-minded groups and clubs, such as bird watchers, literary circles, public libraries, wine tastings, photo clubs, travel clubs, etc. 
  • Media relations. Introduce yourself to the local television, cable, radio, and printed media as a travel specialist. Let them know you are available to answer questions and comment when various issues arise that affect client booking patterns. 
  • Reviews. Consider writing reviews of relevant movies or restaurants that relate to your specialty. Develop a reputation as someone who totally embraces travel and has a keen and vested interest in promoting it. 
  • Special events. This includes travel presentations, food-discovery evenings in local restaurants, exhibiting at relevant consumer shows, movie nights (where the movie relates to the specialty). 

Super-specializing can be the breath of fresh air that you introduce to your career and your book of business. And it's the logical next step in catering to the needs of your present and future clients.  

Digging deep might just create the ground swell you need to elevate your business to the next level.  

Steve Gillick is the Active Ingredient at Talking Travel, www.talkingtravel.ca, a consultancy in Toronto, Canada that specializes in writing and speaking about destinations, niche markets and travel trends. Contact Steve at: steve@talkingtravel.ca. 

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