Now more than ever, when travelers think they don’t need travel agents, it’s your job to prove them wrong. By having unflaggingly high standards in every aspect of your business, you will convey to your clients loud and clear how valuable your services are.
Here are 50 tips to keep your travel business thriving. Keep them handy for regular reference. These tips won’t go out of style. You’ll find them powerful tools not just for today, but tomorrow and well into the future.
1 Have a business plan. Once you establish a vision and the direction of your travel company, it will provide structure and keep you on course.
2 Identify your market and develop strategies to reach them.
3 Always be thinking of ways to promote your company, yourself and your employees. Become the go-to source for media outlets.
4 Be active in your community. Get involved in silent auctions and other fundraisers where you can get your name in front of residents. Set up speaking engagements with local Rotary Clubs, libraries and schools.
5 Use your website to inspire travelers. Post new content and promote it via (opt-in) e-letters.
6 Use social media strategically. Develop a campaign, rather than just randomly posting photos, comments. For example, one week, devote all postings to summer travel; another to African safaris.
7 Give yourself daily deadlines. By having deadlines, you force yourself to be more productive.
8 Specialize. You can be a generalist, but at the same time have some specialties that are magnets for new clients. Once the word gets out that you are an expert on certain destinations (the Caribbean, India, South America) or certain types of travel (cruises, adventure travel) you’ll have a natural flow of inquiries.
9 Have a younger person in your office you’re grooming to move up.
10 Treat every client like your business depends on it.
11 Get back to clients quickly.
12 If possible, meet clients in person.
13 Be a good listener and be curious.
14 Project knowledge. Clients want to know you know your stuff.
15 Always have an upbeat attitude when communicating with clients.
16 Be consistent and show that you
17 Be patient…no matter what.
18 Don’t talk too much. Let
19 Forms: Have a very comprehensive traveler’s profile on file for every client and revisit annually (should have passport details, dietary preferences,
20 Have a checklist of what documents go to client and when. Traveler’s Profiles, credit card authorizations, trip insurance waivers…
21 Stay up to date with technology. Provide clients with travel information, itineraries in the newest formats available unless they prefer more traditional methods. Find out how they want to stay connected. Do they use WhatsApp? What about Venmo?
22 Always find out what’s essential for clients. Pools? AC? King beds? Large rooms?
23 Celebrations. Clients will often tell you it’s an anniversary or graduation trip. But be proactive—if you are aware of something coming up (because of previous conversations), mention it. And always let the suppliers know. You can get creative with this: Baby Moons, Empty Nest Trips…
24 Pay attention to world challenges and have sensitivity when making suggestions. For example, the subject of exploiting animals for travel entertainment is an area of grave concern. Make it your business to keep abreast of what’s happening and how to keep your business away from it.
25 No job too small. Someone just wants a half-day private guided tour in London for a family of four? Take it. It will give you an opportunity to show your skills and they may come back for a more elaborate trip.
26 Process requests quickly after receiving them. Important to get the ball rolling.
27 Don’t be rigid about itineraries you may design. Even if you love your plan, if a client shows they want something different, you have to be flexible.
28 Before a client travels, offer to go over the itinerary day by day on the phone or in person.
29 Keep in touch with clients when they are traveling. Don’t only be there for the bad news.
30 Be reachable 24/7 or have a backup. Be ready to pivot and make changes as needed. Vespa foodie tour rained out in Ho Chi Minh City? No problem, shoot an e-mail to your DMC to switch nights.
31 Keep in touch with clients throughout the year. Send post cards, short e-mails…
32 Suggest a 5-year travel plan for all your clients. This is something
you can sit down and develop with them, taking into account budget, ages, interests.
33 Talk about budget early in the process and convey your commitment to get them maximum value within their budget.
34 Keep abreast of rates of exchanges and foreign currency. If the South African rand is weak against the USD, use it as a great selling point.
35 Be up to date on international news and have opinions on how you feel about certain events. If a client brings up a country that has had terrorist attacks, how do you respond? How do you react to news that’s misleading? Evaluating a country by what you see in the news is like seeing a room through a keyhole. Make it your business to understand the whole picture.
36 Sell trip insurance but unless you’re an insurance expert, encourage your clients to ask specific questions to the insurance providers.
37 Get feedback from clients after a trip and share it with partners and suppliers that you worked with.
38 Collect testimonials and use them on your website, in social media and in publicity campaigns.
39 Encourage clients to refer friends. We all know that word of mouth is the best advertising you can have.
40 Follow up with clients, with suppliers…always.
41 Keep up to date on holidays in destinations you’re likely to sell. For example, know when Tet is happening in Vietnam. Know when to go and when NOT to go to certain places.
42 Don’t multi-task. This is when mistakes happen.
43 Don’t send e-mails late at night. Always proofread in the morning with clear eyes.
44 Make sure your e-mails, your itineraries and other documents are error-proof. These are reflections of you and they show how well you pay attention to details.
45 Hire a bookkeeper.
46 Attend trade shows and travel events but choose them wisely.
Ask yourself how many you can reasonably attend every year and whether you need to go back to the same ones each year.
47 Decide whether a consortia is right for you. Great to have a network and it can yield some terrific amenities for your clientele. But at the same time, don’t underestimate the potential of a strong independent agency where relationships with suppliers are direct and first-hand.
48 Cultivate business contacts whenever you can. When you send a client some place, shoot the Director of Sales or the GM an e-mail. Draw attention to the fact that you’re a fan of their property.
49 Travel smartly. Every year, identify the places you need to visit to be up to date for your clients and get to them.
50 When traveling, have as many experiences as you can, so that you can effectively sell them to your clients. Take the gladiator lessons in Rome. Walk the walls of Dubrovnik. Spend the night in a ryokan in Japan, a riad in Morocco, a pousada in Portugal.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.