Having a good relationship with the suppliers you work with is as important to being a successful travel advisor as anything else. Choosing the right suppliers, ones who view you as a partner is the first step in building those relationships.
Travel Market Report spoke to a number of long-time advisors to find out more about how to have a successful travel advisor/supplier relationship.
(This is the third in a five-part series in which travel advisors who have been in business for at least 10 years share the wisdom they’ve learned over the course of their careers. In last week’s installment, we spoke to advisors about customer service. Next week, we discuss tips specifically for independent contractors.)
It’s a partnership.
By far the most common piece of advice experienced travel advisors offered when it comes to supplier relations is to treat suppliers as partners. More specifically, the suppliers you choose need to be supportive partners of your business.
“Choosing suppliers who truly want to help advisors grow their business is important,” said John R. Schmitt, Jr., president, Frankenmuth Travel, a TRAVELSAVERS member agency. “They should act as an extension for your agency.”
But, what does that mean?
David Locke, co-owner of Avoya Travel member agency Seize the Seas said advisors should ask themselves if the supplier is responsive and if their product is reliable and consistent. Do you know that if you send a client with that supplier that you can trust the client will be taken care of? And, that if there’s a problem, you’ll be able to get through to them quickly?
Ann Sadie Osten, president of Sadie’s Global Travel Ltd., a TRAVELSAVERS member agency, agreed. “Choose a supplier that has a proven track record and that has a business development manager (BDM) that is proactive and responsive when needed.
Locke also recommended taking a look at which suppliers your host agency or agency consortium has a great working relationship with. Chances are they’ll support your business as well.
Ray Teet, co-owner of a Palm City, Florida Dream Vacations franchise emphasized the partnership has to go both ways.
“You have to work to make your supplier your partner to success,” he told TMR. “It is in both of your interests to make sure the client is the right customer for their product. If you place them on a cruise or vacation that is not right for them, both you and the supplier lose.”
Relationships are key.
Ask any longtime travel advisor how important relationships are to their business, and you’ll get an earful. In the second installment of this series, advisors spoke about the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with their clients. But it’s equally as important with suppliers, who need to have your back when something goes wrong. Or who can arrange something special for a valuable client.
“Relationships with the supplier are very important for your success in this industry,” Penny Rushing of Four Points Travel, an Avoya Travel agency, told TMR. “Work with a supplier that you like and want to specialize in and sell.”
Locke agreed. “We always try to maintain a close working relationship with our suppliers and BDMs, so problems get solved and assistance is provided.”
But Alan Rosenbaum, owner of an Atlanta-based Dream Vacations franchise, said new travel advisors need to work to get those relationships started.
“When you first start out, you probably won’t get a personal BDM,” he told TMR. New advisors should ask who their rep is. Call them regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t be shy about letting them know what you’ve done for them.
“Tell them when you make a good booking for them,” he said. “They might not get a report and you want them to know.”
For more, check out The 8 Things Longtime Travel Agents Wish They’d Known When They First Started.