Next week I have the opportunity to travel for pleasure and, as always, small apprehensions about all of the work I have to do at the office shadow my travel plans. I thought it might an opportunity to re-focus on a few critical issues - like why I do what I do, how to do it better and what to do more often. As I wrote down my thoughts, it occurred to me we far too often lose sight of the reasons we are in the travel business. So I developed the following suggestions for myself. At first I called them commandments, but they really are suggestions more than commandments. The real commandments, the ones from the burning bush, were mostly about what not to do. The ones below are more about steps you can take to enhance your travel practice and drive it forward.
1. Let passion for travel be your motivation. If passion is the driving force in your travel practice, you will be much happier. Not that there are not other, important considerations: earning a living, for example. However, if you are in travel primarily to earn a living you might just be a masochist.
2. Take time to travel. Remember all that good advice you give clients about the beneficial aspects, the importance of travel? It's even more important for you as a travel professional. Work a FAM trip, at least once a year, into your business plan.
3. Take time for your family and your health. Being a good travel consultant is demanding. Take care of yourself. Take some time off, exercise, eat well.
4. Love your best clients. Let them know they are appreciated for their attitude, their business, their ability to travel responsibly and well.
5. Fire your worst clients – life is too short to work with jerks.
6. Take on some continuing education. No matter how long you have been in the business, there is always something new to learn. Especially, learn to market. 1/2 of your continuing education should be about marketing. Make a study of marketing and vow to create and work from a bona fide marketing plan if you are not doing so already.
7. Each and every day, read something that motivates or educates you. Reading keeps your mind active and not taking the time to read is ultimately deadly to your creativity. If you are too busy to read, you are too busy. Re-read #3 above.
8. Form strong relationships with suppliers. Find suppliers you can trust and form relationships with them. A few good suppliers you can work with like true partners will do a lot for the growth of your business. Every single one of the best travel professionals I know have a wide range of industry contacts developed over years.
9. Respect what you do. Periodically review why you are a travel counsellor. You help people achieve some of their most important life ambitions. If you truly believe in the life-enhancing power of travel, you realize how important your role is. Find clients that understand and appreciate that role as well.
10. Trust Yourself – avoid the cynic who will tell you that your every idea will fail. “NO" is the easiest thing in the world to recommend. Go with your gut instincts after objectively weighing all of the important considerations.
As I wrote these 10 entries, by the way, I noticed that I fell short of more than a few. Let's face it, most of us understand commandments to be in reality suggestions, guidelines to strive toward. I do intend to take a few of my own suggestions more seriously in the coming months, however.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.