Valerie Wilson Takes a Multi-Pronged Approach To Nurturing Good Travel Agents

by Cheryl Rosen
Valerie Wilson Takes a Multi-Pronged Approach To Nurturing Good Travel Agents


With the economy expanding rapidly and travel booming, travel agencies just can’t find enough good people these days.  So Valerie Wilson Travel has taken a multi-pronged approach to hiring and training that includes internships, in-house trainings and mentoring programs. 

“We do a lot of Lunch and Learns,” Dan Beschloss, executive director of industry relations for the New York-based agency, told TMR, “and presentations by suppliers that come in four forms: walk-arounds from desk to desk; meet and greets, where the supplier sits in a conference room and travel advisors come in as they have time; open-house lunches where everyone is invited; and formal lunch seminars about a destination.”  

The seminars are not by a specific hotel, but rather hosted by a tour operator or DMC invited in to talk about a destination as a whole. One recent one, for example, featured a 30-minute presentation by Abercrombie & Kent on Brazil.  

And then of course there are fam trips. Beschloss himself tries to escort Valerie Wilson Travel agents on two or three of those a year; the company hosts about a dozen a year, with six to eight agents on each one.  

After many internal discussions about how to attract young people right out of college, Valerie Wilson also has instituted internship and externship programs to draw in new young employees and a mentoring program to help new ones get acclimated. College students — including a large contingent from Bucknell, where Kimberly Wilson Wetty went to school – work during summers and school breaks and are attached to a single department, usually leisure travel. The goal is for them to come back and become leisure travel advisors when they graduate. 

Perhaps the biggest need is for agents in meetings and events, a big growth area for Valerie Wilson this year. The heading “special events” includes many hot niches, including multigenerational travel and destination weddings, and “they are over-the-top busy,” Beschloss said. 

Moving across the table: Working with suppliers
In addition to creating educational trips for Valerie Wilson employees, Beschloss nowadays also is involved in growing relationships with the agency’s suppliers. And that begins just the way a relationship between and travel advisor and a client begins: with a one-on-one conversation. 

While your product is important, focus on getting to know your travel advisor on a personal level, he advises suppliers. If you develop a strong relationship, they will find a way to provide you with business.  

“When I meet a supplier for the first time, I just want to talk, to hear where they worked before, what they like to do,” he said. But eventually he will be looking for partners who are willing to get creative with value-adds, to provide things like free breakfasts and room upgrades that are guaranteed at the point of sale, to help provide unique access to experiences. 

In Santiago recently, for example, a supplier offered an example of a trip for art lovers by taking Beschloss and his group to the workplace of an artist for a wine and cheese reception, then to the home of an art dealer who prepared a meal for them.  

A food lover himself, Beschloss said that when he travels, he asks the concierge of the hotel not for a recommendation but for the name of the restaurant where he himself takes his family to eat.  

The key to good food is to “find a restaurant where the menu has no English,” he said.  

  1
  0
Tip of the Day
Daily Top List

World’s Most-Visited Museums

1. Musée du Louvre, Paris

2. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

4. British Museum, London 

5. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City 

Source: Travel + Leisure 

TMR THIS WEEK
Sponsored by Contiki
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=91d13baf-7dde-e711-80eb-782bcb667b27

Five Strategies to Tap the Travel Bookings of Millennials

As millennials seek out meaningful travel experiences, travel agents can capture their business by meeting this market segment where and how they communicate with each other.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Local Partners Are Key for Agents Selling Experiential Travel
Local Partners Are Key for Agents Selling Experiential Travel

Travel agents look to local, third-party operators to source meaningful activities, as experiential travel drives higher client satisfaction and repeat business.

Travel Visas Can Cause Major Headaches for Agents
Travel Visas Can Cause Major Headaches for Agents

Being in the middle of what can be a complicated and often frustrating experience, travel agents can sometimes take the heat for processing woes.

What Travel Trends Will Make a Mark on 2018?
What Travel Trends Will Make a Mark on 2018?

Immersive experiences, social media strategies that drive actual sales, and fringe destinations will dominate the coming year.

Travel Insurance Sales Stabilize as Agents and Consumers Become More Educated
Travel Insurance Sales Stabilize as Agents and Consumers Become More Educated

While the benefits of purchasing travel insurance are increasingly more apparent to sellers and buyers alike, agents still face challenges in selling it.

Baby Boomers Want to Relax and Rejuvenate in 2018
Baby Boomers Want to Relax and Rejuvenate in 2018

AARP study shows a 30 percent jump in Baby Boomers' plans to slow down on their next vacations.

Bicycle Tours Speed Up for the Slow and Fast
Bicycle Tours Speed Up for the Slow and Fast

Traveling cyclists are looking for immersive experiences, health improvements, and the camaraderie of group travel.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Norwegian Cruise Line