Close to 400 agents turned out for TMR’s Travel Marketplace education conference yesterday – a record number that underscored the interest of Canadian agents in professional programming and continued education. And indeed, the news at the opening session yesterday showed the positive results of their efforts.
At the general session, ACTA president Wendy Paradis took a retrospective look at the 40 years since ACTA was founded – noting that in 1977 Star Wars was the top movie and will be again this year; Trudeau was the prime minister then and also in 2017. But many things have changed. This year travel agents are back in style – “the explosion of information on the Internet is so overwhelming that working with a professional agent is the best option for travelers.”
“Travelers need travel agents because we are real people, we’ve been there, we get more for your money, we’re there for your safety and security, we’re the library of information, the accounting expert and the researcher; we do it all,” agreed Louise Gardiner, senior director of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel associate program in Canada. “And we are relationship masters. We are great with suppliers and we are great with customers. It’s important for you to know that you are special.”
At the end of the day, Gardiner said, “you need to be all things to all people, so be extremely well informed. Talk to people, increase your specialty knowledge and partner with great preferred suppliers; supplier partners are your friends. And remember this is a sales nosiness, so get out and market yourself.”
Jeff Element, president of The Travel Corporation Canada, suggested travel professionals take a 10-year approach to customers. “It’s not important to be a destination specialist but rather a customer specialist,” he said. “Get to know your customers, and build that trusted advisor relationship with them. If you want to keep that customer for life, bring them the products they need at the right time.”
In Canada there are 7.5 million people in the 20-34 year old group, 9.9 million aged 34-54, and 9.4 million aged 55-79 — and for each customer in each group there is a unique experience that will deliver the perfect vacation.
“Listen to your customers; understand each customer’s story and need, and make sure you are in tune with what they need at this particular point in their lives,” he said.