Scene: June 25, 2002, Seoul, South Korea. From my room at the downtown Lotte Hotel, I see thousands of fans of the local football team occupying the roads, sidewalks and plazas to watch the FIFA semi-final on large screens set up throughout the city, as the Reds took on Germany. The sea of red shirts, each emblazoned with “Be the Reds,” took on the meaning of not only supporting the national team but actually “becoming” one of the team members and empathizing with their determination and energy to win the match. In the end the Reds lost, but the supporters were still proud that they had done everything humanly possible to support them. Each person WAS one of the Reds.
A lesson from the theme of “being” can be applied to travel career enhancement. Here are Seven Ways to “Be.”
1. Be an active ingredient.
You are an active ingredient in selling travel products and services and therefore the more you network with your peers and engage with current events, exchange rates, new products, up-and-coming trends, client expectations, even the way that travel products are marketed and advertised to your clients, the better equipped you will be to advise, counsel and facilitate meaningful travel experiences that have “value” written all over them.
2. Be the consummate travel advisor.
This is not one of those motherhood statements, but it actually implies that everything you think, eat, and breathe, deals with travel. It means that YOU are inseparable from travel. There is no such thing as holiday from travel or a personal vacation. Every restaurant you visit, every movie you see, every television program you watch relates to travel. The questions that keep popping into your head when you travel are, “I wonder if my clients would be interested in this?” and “Can I please have your business card?” for future dealings with the supplier or attraction
3. Be a P.D. junkie.
It’s no secret that the more you learn in the travel industry, the more you earn in satisfaction, client interaction, self-fulfillment, confidence and yes, even money, through sales and commissions. Being a Professional Development Junkie means that you set a goal to attend X webinars or seminars or online courses or conferences over the course of the year. You are confident enough in your skills to know that continuing education is crucial to your career growth.
4. Be customer service.
Make an effort to exceed the client’s expectations of the service they receive. Even if they decide not to travel, they will remember your courtesy, your penchant for returning calls on a timely basis and not keeping them on hold, and your helpful attitude and responses to their questions. Distinguish yourself through people-positive actions on a 24/7 basis, on the phone, social media, the internet, correspondence and in person.
5. Be Trip Advisor.
Your travel experience differentiates you from everyone else selling travel, and the notes you took about the hotel or resort, the tours available, the attractions, shopping, special interests (niche markets), food and activities means that YOU are in the best position to ascertain whether they match the interests of your clients. Your actual experience at the destination is an invaluable aid in assisting your clients in maximizing the enjoyment of their travels.
6. Be Google.
You are the resource person for travel and you would never tell a client to “go look it up yourself”. Best place to buy leather gloves in Rome? Best pupusas in San Salvador? Where to rent bicycles in Hoi An? This is the “gold” you offer your clients. Send them the links that will connect them to the destination and to travel bliss.
7. Be proactive.
Use your client database to market dreams and ideas to your clients. Keep your eyes open for specials that respond to their general and specific interests. Birding in Cuba? Cruising the Mekong? Shopping in Hong Kong? Festivals in Ulan Bator? A quick note that says “Hi Jane and Bill. I saw this and thought you may be interested. Shall I send more details?”
“Being” the travel profession is very different from just working at a job in the travel industry. It’s something that emanates from you to the client through positive body language, enthusiasm, thoroughness and a genuine desire to ensure that every travel experience speaks “value.”