Seven Tips for Surviving the Busiest Wave Season in Years

by Cheryl Rosen
Seven Tips for Surviving the Busiest Wave Season in Years

Photo: Shutterstock.com


During what many are calling the busiest Wave season in years, we asked some of our favorite travel professionals to share the things they're doing to maximize sales and remain calm as pressures ramp up. Here’s what they said:

1. Do what you have to do to get by.
Tracy Hodge Waugh of Choose Your Adventure Travel in Omaha, Nebraska, for example, has given up her morning exercise time — and “some days I am still drowning. But it's a good problem to have,” she said.

2. Raise fees.
In her second year of business — and with sales quadrupling over the last year — Ashley Metesh-McCoy, owner of Kinship Vacations in Williamsburg, Virginia, has increased her trip design and planning fee, and instituted a waitlist.

3. Get help.
Helen Prochilo of Promal Vacations in Levittown, New York, is giving more business to her independent contractors to handle because she just can’t keep up; Mimi Comfort of Comfort Tours and Travel, Kansas City, Missouri, has hired three new team members. Lauren Capotosto Doyle of The Travel Mechanic in Raleigh, North Carolina, said her new assistant “is taking the stress of working overtime away and allowing me to service our clients better.” One agent who asked to remain anonymous said she is hiring more experienced agents “who can hit the ground running.” Sarah Kline said the college student she hired at Time for Travel, Ltd., in Davidsonville, Maryland, “to take over all the important but time-consuming tasks like airport transfers, reminders, pre-registrations, special requests, etc., is fabulous and worth every penny.” Metesh-McCoy has hired an assistant and outsourced social media.

4. Lose the tire-kickers.
With business up more than double at WhirlAway Travel in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Jamie Jones now gets a fee paid upfront and a signed service agreement before doing any work. “I keep increasing my fees, but the higher they go, the more people want to work with me,” she said.

5. Make time for the business end.
Jones schedules one day a week to work on the business, “so I don't lose sight of our growth and what got us to where we are.” Sarah Boville of Barefoot Travel assigns every hour of her day to a set project, “from social media to quoting and booking weddings, to the dreaded invoicing. Organization is key,” she said.

6. Invest in a storefront.
With her team growing from one agent and one assistant to a team of 10, Kristie Hughes Catchings at KristieLen Travel in Forney, Texas, noticed that her dream spot was available and grabbed it. “I have four or five agents who are just about out of training and another four who are still doing stage one of training on their own, getting lots of certifications (destinations, niche, supplier, etc.) After that is completed, I sit down with them and start stage 2: qualifying, booking process, etc. My home office became too small.” But beware of wasting your valuable time at the office. Casey Green of Blue Springs Travel in Blue Springs, Missouri, for example, has shortened the walk-in hours and increased the number of set appointments at her brick-and-mortar agency.

7. Take a travel break yourself.
On track to triple her business this year, Charlene Smith Daley of Magical Travel in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, is making time to take more trips this year to feature properties and destinations she wants to sell, and to recharge her batteries. “It truly is invigorating to de-stress and reorganize your thought process.” Amy Grubbs McHugh of Dream Makers Vacation Service in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is taking a break from “working crazy long hours” to take the kids on a quick overnight getaway. I am purposely trying to take breaks as needed to keep myself fresh, and leaning on our admins for support!”

Bonus tips to grow your business
Two travel agents replied with stories that weren’t quite about how they are handling the business, but rather how they were keeping business growing. They were too good not to include:

“As of today, I've sold almost twice the amount I did this time last year,” said Dillon Guyer of Guyer Travel International in Rochester, New Hampshire. “My biggest success is a great referral program that gives $100 to those who book, plus $100 to the ones who sent them. I have found this to be a win-win in every situation. As someone who charges a fee up to $500 for packages, the $200 loss is a small hit to take.”

Guyer also has started hand-writing notes to clients. “A brief description of their past trip, what we can prepare for this year, the $100 booking credit, and a $5 Dunkins card are all included. Of those who have reviewed and responded, 70 percent booked again,” he said.

Ina Schweitzer, though, is simply counting her blessings — which include the fact that her business at European Travel International in Riverside, California, is up more than 50 percent over this time last year.

“Many clients are doing things totally out of the norm,” she said. “I find myself looking into expensive African safaris; suites on large ships for people who claim to not like ocean cruises; Tauck and Insight Tours, which I rarely book since I mainly book FITs. One of my clients, who usually books one large trip per year, had booked a suite on Harmony of the Seas for April. Then a couple of weeks ago he called me to fly him to Europe after the cruise and get him on a Tauck Cruise Tour in France. Oh, and he also needs business-class air for this trip and to Sochi for the World Cup. He booked all of that, and paid, within a week.

“Being a one-woman show, as many home-based agents are, I'm having quite a time trying to stay ahead of the new stuff coming in. My biggest challenge is staying organized for sure,” Schweitzer added.

As any travel agent will tell you, "that's a good challenge to have."

  1
  0
Tip of the Day
Daily Top List

Five Best Travel Destinations to Visit Between Seasons

1. Zambia

2. Fiji

3. Rome

4. Hawaii

5. Niagara

Source: GQ

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=01e53f1d-84ba-e811-ba59-782bcb66a2f2

Here Are the ABCs of Guided Independent Travel

It's not escorted and it's not independent travel, so what's the lowdown on this increasingly popular guided independent travel segment?

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Majority of Americans Plan to Work with a Travel Agent
Majority of Americans Plan to Work with a Travel Agent

AAA study reveals that 75 percent of Americans will utilize the services of a travel professional to plan their vacations over the next year, with Millennials just as likely as Boomers to do so.

Tapping into Your Clients’ Style Sense Can Improve Your Hotel Bookings
Tapping into Your Clients’ Style Sense Can Improve Your Hotel Bookings

As independent boutique hotels and soft lodging brands proliferate, more travelers are inspired to redesign their homes after returning from a vacation. For travel agents, that’s an opportunity to create greater customer loyalty.

How One Traveler Became a Loyal Travel Agent Client
How One Traveler Became a Loyal Travel Agent Client

Heather Speizman booked direct with airlines and hotels, or through online travel agencies—until she met Anastasia Damianeas.

Harley Davidson’s Ken Schmidt Offers Advice for Travel Agents
Harley Davidson’s Ken Schmidt Offers Advice for Travel Agents

‘If the people you are serving aren’t telling others about what you are doing for them, you are not competing. And they are not coming back,’ says the turnaround artist who brought Harley from the brink of bankruptcy.

When Travel Plans Changed, Industry Veteran’s Knowledge Saved Him Money
When Travel Plans Changed, Industry Veteran’s Knowledge Saved Him Money

Jim Smith has more than 45 years in the travel industry. That experience came in handy when an online hotel booking had to be canceled.

Agents Play Key Role in Steering LGBTQ Clients Right
Agents Play Key Role in Steering LGBTQ Clients Right

While travel agents should familiarize themselves with a destination’s laws and prevailing attitudes toward the LGBTQ community before booking a trip for gay and lesbian clients, there are other factors to consider. Part two of a two-part series.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Norwegian Cruise Line