As travel agents refine their niches, build their websites, and participate in social media, they should keep Heather Speizman in mind. While Speizman will use online travel agencies (OTAs) for simple trips, she has been a loyal, repeat customer of Hermes Travel, in Astoria, New York, since a 2014 honeymoon, and now regularly recommends Hermes Travel to her friends and family.
Her travel history and preferences, how she reconnected with high school classmate and travel agent Anastasia Damianeas, and how Damianeas and Hermes Travel cares for Speizman when she travels, are instructive for all agents looking to fill their customer database with loyal, repeat customers.
This client/agent relationship shows first off how to attract the right kind of customer, especially those who regularly use OTAs. “I am very web savvy, so I had never used a travel agent before. I always booked direct with airlines, hotels, etc., or through services like Hotels.com,” said Speizman.
That changed when the two high school classmates reconnected via Facebook a few years ago. “Whenever I would ask travel-related questions on Facebook, she was always the first to answer, and she would have great suggestions,” Speizman noticed.
“I love Facebook. I signed up in early 2008, when I had just moved to Dubai with my husband and infant son, to stay in touch with family and friends in New York,” said Damianeas, travel advisor and destination specialist at Hermes Travel, in Astoria, New York.
On the platform, “I interact with friends, clients who are friends now, and family,” Damianeas said.
As a result of the back-and-forth, Speizman decided to use Damianeas to book her honeymoon. “We had never been to these locations and we wanted top-notch service, which we got.”
While many agents might think that obtaining a new client through social media is a coincidence, Damianeas said offering guidance online is an excellent marketing vehicle for her and Hermes Travel.
“I am very proud of being an agent, and my friends know that my mom has owned Hermes Travel since 1980,” she said. “Being very experienced and knowledgeable, people reach out to me with questions all the time and I love to help. They trust me. I know that when I help once, they usually book with me the next time.”
According to Speizman, Damianeas offered personal hotel recommendations for all four cities, tours, car services, flight and train reservations. Damianeas increased Speizman’s trust and confidence in her by being highly approachable during the “consideration” phase of her trip planning, and by tapping into Speizman’s love for the culture of her destinations.
“She was very responsive to emails, phone calls and texts, and trust me, there were a lot,” Speizman said. “We were given different experiences in Europe (tours/meals) as wedding gifts from family, and Anastasia spoke with them as well, to guide us in the right direction for everything.”
Speizman also appreciated how Damianeas got the couple excited about their honeymoon destinations and activities when she published their itinerary.
“One of the things that I loved about our honeymoon was she sent me a true itinerary in a book format, that listed things in multiple ways, [e.g. in chronological order, and also by city], with all record locators, confirmation numbers, etc., all in one place,” she said. “As someone who likes to be organized, this allowed me to keep my anxiety in check while traveling.”
Damianeas used a software publishing tool to create the itinerary, and today uses Travefy.
A virtuous cycle of continuing sales
Damianeas’ effort has paid dividends for her and her travel agency. Since that honeymoon, Speizman, who travels about twice a year, has become a loyal client, booking multiple trips with her, including two for 2019. Speizman’s in-laws have booked trips with Damianeas, too.
“I have even referred Anastasia to a number of people in my office who now use her exclusively to book travel all over the world,” Speizman said.
Part of the success of the relationship is the in-depth knowledge Damianeas has of her clients.
“Heather has wanderlust, like me,” Damianeas said, “and wants to see as much of the world as she can. She also loves history, culture, and would rather spend her time seeing important ancient sites, cities, museums, than laying on a beach — although she does her fair share of that, too.”
Finally, Speizman’s experience with Hermes Travel and Damianeas points out how consumers can quickly come to learn that when travel plans change, there is nothing like having a professional advisor there to care and advocate for you. For Speizman, peace of mind is a strong purchasing factor.
“I book simple domestic travel on my own, as the internet makes that pretty easy, but I will never travel internationally without Anastasia’s assistance. I love working with her because I know that if anything comes up, she will take care of it. I need not worry.”