with Coralie Belman, CTM, Let’s Get Out of Here Travel (a TAND affiliate)
Where were you born? In Parry Sound.
What was your 1st job? A summer job building red school house educational kits for Scholastic, at a factory in Markham. I was 12!
How long have you been in the business? Since 1987. 25 years of that was at CITC, in many roles, including Business Development Manager, Education Coordinator and at the end, Certification Manager.
How has the business changed since you got into it? The automation – I remember using ReserVec in the CITC office and it was so cumbersome. When I 1st started working there, we would type out individual confirmations to events. Communication has sped up, but it’s also changed people’s expectation levels - my e-mail in box has become like an old-fashioned fax machine.
Do you have a specialty? I do a lot of corporate travel, luxury and FIT. I sell very little ITC – it’s a product that’s always discounted and consumers will worry about $5 here and there. My FIT clients never question the price.
If you could have any job in the business what would it be? Honestly, it’s what I’m doing now. I love travel, I love doing it, planning it, researching it, exploring, so I think I’m in the best job for me and my personality!
What was your best FAM? I escorted a CITC FAM to Kenya 7 years ago, and it was a great group. I still have a photo from that trip hanging in my home office.
What drives you crazy? Honestly? Suppliers who don’t listen. When I go to a supplier with a request I do so with a certain amount of knowledge. And the response will come back totally different from what I asked for! I find that frustrating because I’ve now wasted my time.
What’s the 1st thing you do when you get into a hotel room? (laughs) I probably check out the bathroom. Sometimes it says a lot about the room. Part of my industry background has been in hotel inspections so I have a sharp eye for details.
Do you have a magic sentence to close the sale? No – because I think closing the sale is all about qualifying the client, and by the time we’ve finished talking it’s them who are asking about next steps, deposits and so on.
Do you have any time management strategies? I actually teach travel agents time management. One thing I use a lot is Forced Choice Prioritization. It makes you compare all the things on your to-do list in a grid form and the important things really rise to the top. I’ll do that on a Sunday night to help me set points for the week. I also colour code my Outlook Diary by client, task, accounting, social and so on, and use different coloured file folders for each aspect of my business… Plus I’m careful to work downtime into my schedule each day for that unexpected call.
What do you do to keep your clients loyal? Honesty and service. My clients truly get what they are looking for. I get a lot of comments such as, “That restaurant you suggested was phenomenal!” I’ve only ever had one big issue with a client.
If you had to spend 6 months in a destination, which one would you pick? Croatia. I’m so enamored of it! I’m not the person who’s going to buy a place in Florida, I’m looking at Croatia.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? I might be doing more training or teaching. I love to train!
If you, or someone you know who is a front line travel agent in Canada, would like to be featured in Biting Questions, please contact us