With domestic leisure travel slowing through the short term, travel agents are focusing on the final push to end the calendar year, and setting themselves up for a strong start to 2017.
According to the U.S. Travel Association's (USTA) latest Travel Trends Index (TTI), in July domestic leisure travel grew at its slowest rate since December 2012. “Though the domestic sector will continue to grow through the rest of 2016, it will do so at a much more anemic pace, as consumer confidence boosted by lower fuel prices begins to wane,” USTA predicted.
U.S. travel overall is expected to grow at a rate of around 1.1% through January 2017.
Still, the travel industry is expanding. USTA’s Current Travel Index (CTI) registered at 51.0 in July (numbers above 50 indicate growth, while a score below 50 indicates contraction). The CTI has registered above the 50 mark for 79 straight months.
Travel Market Report reached out to a handful of agents to ask them what holds their attention for the remainder of the year, and what they want to do superbly to strengthen their businesses.
Chuck Satterfield, CLIA elite cruise counselor, Sure Cruise and Cruise Travel Outlet, Las Vegas
“There’s this idea in the cruise industry, in the travel media, that everyone makes so many of their sales and profits during ‘Wave Season,’ ” Satterfield said. “People see it as something that will save them: ‘Thank God for Wave Season.’
“But your job is to save yourself. Wave Season can be a crutch, and if you lean on it too hard, it will collapse. I have to make money all year. My job needs to stay solid all of the time.”
So Satterfield is busy calling vendors and clients about next year’s Europe cruise season. “The good cruising clients are there all year round. They’re calling, doing their research. I’m seeing if there is reason to book spec space for a group, I want to offer my clients the best availability and pricing. Now is a great time to lock things in for the spring break period.”
Valarie Contrino, travel advisor, Contrino Travel, Inc., Staten Island, NY
“The single most important thing that I'm focused on during the second half of this year is to stay in front of my clients. In an ever-evolving industry, we often lose sight of the fact that we have many clients who want to stay loyal and dedicated—but in order to keep their business, we must let them know we want it by educating them and letting them know of our commitment to stay current.”
Margie Jordan, president and CEO of Jordan Executive Travel Service, Jacksonville, FL
“Most travel entrepreneurs don't have a plan; they try one thing after another to see what sticks. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Take this time to get specific with your goals and your numbers. And then manage your business by that plan. Watch those numbers to understand if you're on or off track. If you're off-track, adjust.
Denise Posdal, EuroLuxeTravel, Schaumburg, IL
“The most important thing agents have to do is continue to market themselves. Whether it’s through social media, events or speaking engagements, e-newsletters or good old-fashioned mailings, ads…or just continuing to stay in frequent touch with past clients. We have to always stay top of mind so people know that we are here to help and can be huge assets to them as they plan their travels.”
Steven Kadoch, managing partner, Ultimate Jet Vacations, North Miami Beach
“We’re focused on two things. The first is technology. We’re launching a booking engine for our travel agency partners to be able to build their own quotes, off a webpage with their logos, and send those quotes directly to their clients without waiting for our team.
“The second thing is people. We’re investing a lot in recruiting and training the right people to handle our clientele.”