Travel agents, suppliers, and industry luminaries returned to the Delta Hotel Toronto on Wednesday to take part in the second day of Travel Market Place East 2021.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going and I would say that is our travel industry in Canada and around the world over the last 18 months,” ACTA’s Wendy Paradis said in a morning session.
On the main stage on Wednesday, Christen Perry, the founder, and owner of Classic Travel Connection, shared her first-hand account of how the pandemic transformed her business, compelling her to move to a fee-based model.
“Fees are something that I became very passionate about over the last year or so,” she said.
Perry’s journey to a fee-based building was a long one—she started her agency in 2008 and learned the tools of the trade by “trial and error,” she said. She has been able to grow her agency into a “very successful team” with 8 full-time employees and 22 ICs on top of that.
Prior to the pandemic, Perry “was always curious about fees” but was also “one of those advisors who was very proud about not using fees.”
She said that three types of fear prevented her from taking the plunge—fear of losing clients, fear of losing income, and fear of failing. Then the pandemic hit.
“Then came 2020, a year I lovingly call it a dumpster fire, and the dumpster fire has come and gone many times since,” she said. “I realized that I could not continue to depend on the government to take care of me and my business.”
For Perry, it started by shifting her mindset.
"We are all professionals it is time that s an industry we are professionals just like a doctor is a professional,” she said.
“We have to recognize it and have to live it in every single thing we do. We solve problems either that our clients can't solve for themselves or they don't want to solve for themselves. We bring value to other people’s lives. We may not even know the value we need.”
Agents need to think about their compensation this way—commissions are the result of an agreement between you, your company, and your suppliers. Fees are compensation that you receive from your client when they chose to hire you. Fees are a result of an agreement between your client.
“Starting there can get you on the road to transforming your business,” Perry added.
The technological transformation of travel
The pandemic pulled forward so many things not only in travel but in industries operating around the world. But in travel, which faces a crisis of consumer trust right now, the pandemic has truly pulled forward its technological transformation according to Fernando Amaral, the Director of Sales at Sabre.
“Travel preferences are shifting into the predictable kind of travel,” he said. “Travelers also want to customize vacation packages…offers that are completely tailored to their needs and interest.
Boosting your emotional intelligence
Also on the main stage, Oceania Cruises' senior vice president of sales Nikki Upshaw spoke about how emotional intelligence impacts sales.
"There are so many books about emotional intelligence and I’m not going to start pretending to have read them all,” she said. “But being emotionally aware has been helpful in my career.”
There are five key facets of emotional intelligence according to Upshaw—self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Each one can help advisors in communication with their clients.
\For instance, knowing how you deal with change (self-awareness and regulation) can help advisors stay calm when news, like the new variant news, disrupts business.
“The only constant is change so how do we deal with change?” Upshaw said.
“One of the best ways to deal with change is knowing your risk tolerance but to focus on the things you can control, something that is easier said than done,” she added.
“Our industry is the only one that has to find a way to deal with, adapt, and respond to a global crisis and economic downturns.
We all get all of that and have to maneuver it for our clients and we can’t control any of those things. Instead of hitting that panic button let's hit the pause button.”