Travel Agent Day: Open Jaw Asks Three Advisors For Their Sales Secrets
By Vickie Sam Paget
Happy Travel Agent Day! To mark this special occasion, Open Jaw spoke to three seasoned travel agents from across the country to find out what golden nuggets of advice they have to share with those who want to get ahead in the industry...
Golden Nugget of Advice #1: “Do What Works Best for You”
Amanda Rauh, owner of Travel by Amanda and Associates in Nanaimo, BC, knows a thing or two about being a travel agent. She finished travel school on a Friday afternoon in September 1999 and started her first job as a travel agent on the Monday morning.
Fast forward almost two decades and her favourite thing about her job is the people she works with on a day-to-day basis: “I love working with people to make their vacation experience the best it can be,” she enthuses. “So whether I’m booking an African safari or a trip to Mexico, I guess my favourite thing about being an agent is my clients.”
And she has a particularly insightful golden nugget of advice for agents who are trying to get ahead: “A lot of the experts say focus on one area. This can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to pay the bills. After all, if you’re focussing on river cruises, are you really going to turn away an all-inclusive vacation booking for 20 people?
“So my advice is to do what works best for you. You need a business/marketing plan to hold yourself accountable, but ultimately, you are in control and you set your own goals. There is no secret formula; something different works for every agent.”
Rauh also has some advice about personalizing your service.
“I think getting ahead is about setting yourself apart from the competition and personalizing things for your clients. You don't need to send lavish gifts, but something personal before the trip or upon their return works well.
“I had a client who spent close to $100,000 with me on two trips and I was at a complete loss about what to get her. Over our many conversations I listened to her talk about the book 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die. She had no idea there was a second version, so I popped onto my Amazon account and had it delivered to her doorstep two days later. She was tickled!”
Golden Nugget of Advice #2: “Change with the Times”
With some 36 years of experience to his name -- 30 of which he’s spent running his own agency -- Nazir Hirji, president and senior travel advisor at Vancouver’s HB Travel Corporation, has certainly seen the industry change over the decades. However, one thing remains the same: He still gets a buzz out of bringing great value to his clients.
When it comes to giving advice to agents who want to get ahead, Hirji has two golden nuggets of information to share: “I have learned over time in this dynamic and everchanging industry that there are two key basic elements,” he says.
“Firstly, to stay in business one needs to change with the times and keep ahead of the technological curves in our industry. By this I mean taking training courses and learning about the latest tech tools. This makes you a more efficient agent.
“Secondly, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. This, together with consistency, is key. The customer gets a clear expectation of the service they are going receive -- and that creates loyalty and referrals.”
Golden Nugget of Advice #3: “Let the Customer Know They’re Important”
Ask Cathy Campbell, cruise and vacation consultant at Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Burlington North, ON, how she feels about making the decision to become a travel agent four-and-a-half years ago, and she’ll tell you it’s the best thing she’s ever done.
“I was at a point in my life where I needed a change and as I'd always helped my family and friends with their travel plans, it was a good option. My career has always been in some type of customer service so travel is a perfect fit for me. Becoming a travel agent is the best thing I have ever done. It has changed my life.”
For Campbell, who loves the diverse nature of the job, the biggest piece of advice she can share is to let the customer know that they’re important.
“Clients come to us for our knowledge, expertise and professionalism,” she explains. “Answer phone messages and emails the day they are sent, even if it’s just to say you're working on it. Let the customer know they are important.”
Campbell also lives her life by an inspirational motto: ‘NOW.’
“I live by the ‘No Opportunity Wasted’ (NOW) motto,” enthuses Campbell. “I live my job; I talk about it everywhere I go and with everyone I meet. Travel is such an easy thing to talk about. It excites absolutely everyone!”
It certainly does… Happy Travel Agent Day!
Vickie Sam Paget Western Correspondent
Hailing from the UK, Vickie Sam Paget is a travel and tourism storyteller located in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not on the road, creating engaging travel content or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.