Travel Advisors, Take Note: Home Is Where You Can Thrive
A home is more than a roof over your head. It’s a place where you feel safe, are welcome, and can grow. Most importantly, it’s a place where you can thrive.
This holds true for travel advisors, especially when a global event disrupts travel. The current pandemic is just one example of how challenging the world of selling travel can be. In times like these, it is important to assess your current “home” todetermine if it is supportive, fosters growth, and positions you to prosper.
The past four months have certainly brought a travel company’s culture to the forefront.
How well did your agency communicate with you during the pandemic? Were they supportive with the challenges surrounding cancellations, changes and rebookings? Did they help you connect with clients when travel was at its lowest point?
Direct Travel started holding weekly Town Hall meetings in early April (and they will continue for the foreseeable future) to keep travel advisors informed of all the ongoing changes with supplier policies, government programs and travel restrictions. They also have open Q&A where transparency is the name of the game.
Amid the uncertainty throughout the spring, the marketing team never stopped communicating with clients on behalf of advisors. They just altered the messaging, and the results were dynamic. Whether it was client webinars to keep them engaged or timing offers that resulted in inquiries and bookings ahead of the expected curve, the key focus was engaging clients andmaintaining the advisor’s relationship.
“Our Dream Away Travel Enrichment Series generated new inquiries for both employees and independent advisors, and we actually had a few bookings during the webinar,” sharedStephen Smith, Senior Vice President, Leisure Marketing for Direct Travel, referring to a client-facing webinar in early May. “We know our engagement strategies are paying off, and we are continually adapting the concepts as the marketplace changes.”
Recently, Shelby Donley, VP Luxury Services, held training sessions on service fees that focused on how to effectively position a fee to a client and why charging a fee reflects an advisor’s time and expertise. Following this, a comprehensive Service Fee Tool Kit was provided, empowering advisors to ensure proper payment for their tireless efforts in helping clients.
“We have all the technology and tools you need to be successful – top commissions, CRM, itinerary management, marketing automation, reporting and more. But, our key differentiators arethe people and teams who support you and help you succeed,” said Vivienne Kouba, Senior Vice President, Leisure Operations.
Direct Travel also has a dedicated air desk for both GDS and non-GDS users featuring top status with airlines. “Our air programs open up a new revenue stream for our advisors, and the support of the air team means advisors can focus on service and collaboration with their clients,“ she continued.
Beyond one specific team or initiative, the success of Direct Travel is in collaboration. Sales, marketing and supplier management each provide stability for the others and collectively deliver a strong foundation for the more than 1,000leisure advisors across North America.
When determining if you’ve found your “home” it’s important to look beyond these challenging times. How will my agency support me when travel is thriving again? Do they have the infrastructure to grow as my business grows? How many advisors can they support?
Key to this is a large support team that is well-positioned and structured for growth. When growth is a combination of acquisition and organic, you need to have a strong foundation that can adjust according to the needs of the front-line advisors.
In 2017, after the acquisition of Vision Travel, Gerard Bellino had the foresight to see the need for a role to oversee Direct Travel relationships with leisure suppliers. He hired Rene Schneeberger, who has been instrumental in managing these relationships with the growth of the agency and the growth of the travel advisors in mind.
Over the past four months, the support supplier management team has been a key differentiator for advisors. At the same time, Bellino saw a need for a more robust and comprehensive marketing program that could be offered complimentary to independent advisors. Bellino also implemented the GEM Awards to recognize Direct Travel’s top advisors.
Direct Travel has always believed in a more personal, customized approach to travel and that holds true even more so as there is a return to travel. Highlights that showcase the company’s impressive standing in the industry include having won the Highest Year Over Year Growth distinction in 2018 and 2019 within the Virtuoso network; best-in-class commissions with Silversea, Abercrombie & Kent, Tauck, Four Seasons Preferred, Rosewood Elite, Delta Airlines, and many othercruise, hotel, air and tour partners; and membership in Oceania Cruise Connoisseurs Club, Viking Platinum Circle Plus, Belmond Bellini Club and Dorchester Diamond Club among numerous others.