Luxury travel-agency network Virtuoso, at its annual Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa, this week, released new internal research outlining the steps its most successful travel advisors have taken to quickly become million-dollar producers.
Of course, travel advisors who are members of any major travel-agency group can adopt these practices within their own networks to boost their sales. So here are seven ways to quickly become a highly successful travel advisor:
1. Engage in networking with partners and peers: Travel advisors who fully participate in networking events staged by their consortia, cooperatives, marketing networks, and/or host agencies are much more likely to sell more, because they personally know and have relationships with top travel suppliers and destination executives, as well as their travel advisor peers. Virtuoso’s research found that those who regularly participate in such events are twice as likely to be successful than those who do not.
2. Participate in professional development: The most successful travel advisors actively engage in training and professional development on a regular basis through their networks or travel agencies. The most successful advisors in the study took 75% more training classes than the average advisor.
3. Actively use marketing programs: The most successful travel advisors use the marketing programs developed by their consortia, coops, or networks. In the study, 83% percent of the most successful advisors participate in the group’s marketing initiatives, with more than 70% of their clients receiving customized marketing vehicles that direct consumers back to their advisor. Nearly every major agency group has similar programs that they make available to their travel advisors.
4. Connect through social media: Social media has been the buzzword for over a decade, but few have measured just how necessary it is for a successful travel advisor. The research found 90% of the most successful advisors are active on multiple social-media channels, using these channels to communicate and inspire their clients.
5. Present yourself as a professional: Many top travel-agency groups now have websites where travel advisors can post their professional biographies and experience, so potential clients can find out more about their services. Alternatively, you can post this information on your own website so customers can discover more about your travel experience and what you offer in terms of specialties and service. Eight out of ten of the most successful travel advisors have created a bio that includes their areas of specialization, the countries they have visited and when, and a professional headshot. This detailed information is located on the network’s website and creates a way to engage prospects who may be seeking your services.
6. Encourage feedback from your clients: If you don’t know what your customers think about your service, you’ll never understand what they will want in the future. That means you have to actively solicit feedback from your clients. Over 40% of the most successful advisors have client reviews and recommendations on their advisor profile pages on the network’s website, nearly four times the average for advisors overall. Virtuoso’s most successful advisors average 26.2 reviews per person, versus the network average of 14.5. And feedback can be positive as well as negative—so don’t fear it!
7. Follow up with your clients: Like getting feedback, following up with clients is essential to building the foundation of a successful advisor-client relationship. You can discover what your clients liked, didn’t like, or think could be improved in your service as well as the travel products you sold. You also can find out where they want to go next and what travel experiences they would like to have.
Beyond these seven habits of successful travel advisors, Virtuoso also shared research showing why the travel agency profession is on the way up today. The group said it saw a 26% increase in travel advisors in 2015, with 57% of that growth coming in existing Virtuoso travel agencies, not from newly acquired ones.
Virtuoso added that such growth has been consistent over the past five years, with an 85% jump in travel advisors in the network between 2010 and 2015. And that growth will continue: 79% of agency owners expect sales to grow this year and 68% intend to staff up to handle that new business.
Travel advisor compensation is growing as well: 84% of survey respondents said advisor compensation is up, with 47% saying it grew 11% or more, and 13% saying it grew by 21% or more.
New entrants into travel advising also are becoming million-dollar products at a record pace. Virtuoso surveyed new travel advisors in U.S. and Canada who have entered the profession over past three years to find out how long does it takes for a new advisor to become a top producer. In the first year its travel advisors averaged $402,215 in sales, jumping to $1,050,821 in year two, and $1,443,419 in year three. New advisors also reported a dramatic growth in clients, from an average of 66 clients in year one, to 138 in year two, and 172 in year three. Average travel spend of those individual clients was $3,081 in year one, $7,606 in year two, and $8,403 in year three.