Travel Agents Sail into Wave Seasonby Cheryl Rosen /
It’s that high season for selling cruises known as Wave Season — and many travel professionals are kicking off 2018 with new approaches to their customers, their marketing and their business processes. When TMR asked what they are doing differently this year, here is what agents said.
A more personal touch
Cruise Planners franchise owner Chuck Flagg has kicked off the season by sending a hand-written note to every customer who booked a trip last January, asking for a referral to their relatives and friends, and including three business cards for them to share. His plan is to follow up with a phone call to touch base — and to repeat the process every month in 2018.
Kat Casarez-Perkins at Choice Travel Adventures & Singles Travel Too travel agencies in Phoenix, Ariz., had a similar plan — and already has reaped the reward. “This year I sent out emails to ALL my clients letting them know that this is the time to book that dream cruise. I also sent out Hallmark e-cards with a Wave Season reminder along with a New Year's ‘thank you for your business,’” she said. And it worked, I booked two group cruises already!”
Phyllis R. Chambers also will focus on doing business the old-fashioned way, “joining every club and putting flyers for all my groups space, and passing out cards with everyone I exchange money with.” The old adage never goes out of style.
More social media
Jeni Chaffer, owner of Journeys Travel in Bourbonnais, Ill., will rely on the “awesome social media posts, flyers and promos” she gets from her BDMs “that make it easy to market cruises during Wave Season.”
But agency Owner Dillon Guyer in Rochester, N.H., prefers to rely on his own experiences, sharing his personal trips on social media: “I’ve sold the Haven more than once just sharing pictures from my own experience,” he said. “The real ‘wow’ factor is that I have the first-hand experience that truly fine-tunes the vacation.” Behind the scenes, meanwhile, he will aim for quality versus quantity, focusing on selling more higher-end customers rather than “as many bookings as possible for less value.”
Justin Wolfson, Independent Travel Consultant at Chubit Travel in Portland, Maine, will be doing more paid advertising on social media, “letting clients and prospect clients see the great deals that run during Wave Season and posting deals that catch clients' eyes. I advertise on my business page and share it out as well to my personal page.”
Raye Bowling Hayden, manager of Triple R Travel in Tampa, Fla., will be backing up her posting on social media in person, “networking more in my community with the local Chamber of Commerce. I've started a travel club in my neighborhood, hoping to encourage more traveling for fun as a group. I'm also hosting a cruise night soon, hoping to meet new travelers who also love cruising.”
Highlighting new itineraries
Valerie Gossett at Premier Resources Travel on St. Simmons island, Ga., is looking to attract interest by doing more unique things in 2018 — perhaps “different cruise itineraries, such as one starting in Ireland and going to Iceland, Scotland and back to Ireland. My longtime clients are ready for something different.”
Sharon Millar at Ultimate All Inclusive Travel Inc in Gilbert, Ariz., also will be looking to sell something new. “We have added river cruises as a specialty and we have added two new ICs, and streamlined some of the processes we use in our agencies,” she said. “We are ready for a great year.”
At San Juan Capistrano Travel, Ann Ronan also will be selling more river cruises, with a “focus more marketing, presentations and continuing education on river cruises. I personally love them and enjoy the clients who are attracted to this kind of vacation.”
Focusing on their systems
Many travel professionals also will be looking to their internal systems, hoping to improve the process and leave more time for the sale. Elizabeth Caran in Carey, N.C., is “automating like crazy, trying to get as much programed in to happen automatically so I can handle more clients without sacrificing service.”
In Philadelphia, Pa., Jenn Earley plans to be “Ruthless in evaluating my ROI. If activities don’t give me a 5-to-1 return after I run a test, I will abort mission! With limited time (I work full time) and a limited marketing budget, I have to be super mindful to invest in success and cut the dead weight early on.”
But Travel Genie Kenneth Smith, at Dreams Come True Travel in Maplewood, N.J., will keep his focus simple. “I plan on starting a smile campaign,” he said. “Vacations are all about the smile, so I am asking resort properties what will they do for my clients to make them smile and asking my clients what would make them smile. I will surprise my clients with little smile moments during their vacation and I will hand out smile cards to everyone I see that simply say, ‘If smiles are what you seek during your vacation experience, call Travel Genie Ken, with my number.’"