Host agency Nexion’s CoNexion 2017 in the Big Easy this weekend offered up a plethora of great ideas for travel agents looking to grow their businesses. From breaking into the luxury cruise market to marketing business, there were tips for virtually every kind of agent, big or small, home-based or brick-and-mortar.
Many speakers mentioned the importance of being passionate and committed, focusing on the needs of your customer and being there 24/7, finding a niche in which to specialize, and setting a formal plan and sticking to it. Those clearly are key attributes of successful agents.
Other speakers, however, came up with more unusual ideas.
Paul Gauguin’s Sharla Smith suggested that agents looking for luxury customers get out into the community and “go where the luxury clients go--to the golf communities, the gated communities, the yacht clubs. And don’t forget the philanthropic, the charities and the symphonies.”
Smith mentioned that one travel agent partner of hers volunteers as an usher at the local symphony orchestra and friends she made there in her first year bought four luxury trips and a pair of round-the-world cruise tickets.
Sunday’s motivational speaker, Vernice Armour, the first African-American combat pilot in the U.S. armed forces, suggested what while “no one likes change but a wet baby,” travel agents need to embrace new ways of doing business.
Make a list of action items you hope to accomplish, prioritize them and focus the top three, she said.
Nexion vice president of sales and marketing Cris De Souza offered up 10 tips, including being very careful about the name you choose for your business and about the employees you choose to hire.
Globus’s Kristen Steele suggested reaching out to suppliers with whom you want to build your business and saying, “Hi, I’ve researched you and I want to get to know you and your team.” For customers, offer a little unexpected treat, a lagniappe, as they say here in New Orleans. Rather than a $100 discount, offer something personally meaningful to them, like a kennel for their dog or Global Entry membership.
MSC Cruises’ Joe Jiffo said that just as agents need a business plan, they also a social media plan.
“It’s important to brand yourself and to have an Internet strategy; where are you going to post and where and how often? If I see content I really like, I’m going to share it, and my friends are going to share it.”
Just as corporate employees should have an elevator speech that explains what they do in a few words, Terry Morrison of The Mark Travel Corp. said travel agents should have a story to quickly explain why someone should book with them and no one else.
“Don’t say you are a travel agent, create a different first impression by saying you help people create great memories,” he suggested. And rather than waiting for customers to get home and call you with their complaints, text them while they still are on vacation and deal with any issues while you still have the opportunity to make things right.