During last week’s buzzy 2023 Avoya Travel Conference, which took place aboard the lovely Discovery Princess as it sailed in Alaska, we got a chance to chat with Steve Hirshan, sr. v.p. of sales for Avoya Travel, who gave us some “tips and tricks” of the trade.
Recommend: For newbies to the industry, why choose a host agency such as Avoya Travel?
Steve Hirshan: For those who are new to travel, choosing a host that offers an education platform with the travel industry basics that everyone needs to start a business is paramount. Once you have the basics under your belt, what do you need next? Clients. When you’re starting your travel business, you usually don’t have a book of business to begin with. Let Avoya Travel find those clients for you and your phone can ring your first day like it did for me many years ago.
Recommend: For those who’ve been in the industry for a while, what does Avoya Travel bring to the table?
Steve Hirshan: First, you start with our industry-leading technology platform, Agent Power, that helps you to work more efficiently. Add to that the highest supplier commissions levels. Then, if you don’t have enough clients of your own, you can always take part in the Avoya Live Leads program.
Recommend: Even with consumers seeing travel advisors in a new light due to the pandemic, there’s still a perception that many things an advisor can do, a savvy traveler can do on their own. How are host agencies such as Avoya Travel trying to change that perception? How are you guys teaching IAs to sell themselves?
Steve Hirshan: The most important thing to sell to travelers is that there is no cost to them for our expertise. So, why not use an advisor? I can certainly watch a lot of plumbing videos online, but I prefer to call an expert to mop up the water when something I do goes wrong. We have also invested a lot of time with our agencies to help them develop their agency profiles, which highlight their skills, certifications, and past customer reviews.
Recommend: A lot of new-to-industry are people who have changed careers later in life. Why do you think that is?
Steve Hirshan: People want to stay more active later in life and they are looking for ways to supplement their retirement income. There is no other business they can start up with such a minimal investment that they can be successful at, even if working part time.
“[Being a travel advisor] is hard work. You can’t just be an order taker, you have to offer additional value like great service.”
Recommend: That said, why is it so difficult for the industry to attract young people to become travel advisors? What can the industry, including Avoya Travel, do better to attract young people into the industry, specifically as travel advisors?
Steve Hirshan: If you’ve seen our group at this conference, you have seen a lot more young people than you would have in the past. What we’ve done to attract them is offer them the opportunity to work from home in their own business for a minimal investment. Offering education that is completely online in a tech environment that they have grown up being used to also helps. Let’s face it, the travel perks should be a big selling feature to attract younger people since they are used to the nomadic work culture already.
Recommend: What are the three most surprising challenges advisors face?
- “They don’t get paid until people travel, typically, so they need to have cash on hand to support themselves until commissions are received and paid.”
- “There is more competition than they expect. It’s not just other travel agencies, but the suppliers themselves, and consumers who are used to making purchases online on their own.”
- “It’s hard work. You can’t just be an order taker, you have to offer additional value like great service.”
Recommend: Beyond being a good salesperson, what skills does a travel advisor need to have to be successful?
Steve Hirshan: I think at the top of the list is persistence. You are likely not the only travel agent your client is talking to. Once they make up their mind to book, you better be the next person they speak to.
Partnering With the Right Host Agency is Essential for Travel Advisors
Recommend: How does Avoya Travel’s focus on technology complement a skillful travel advisor?
Steve Hirshan: Well, I think the old adage, ‘You don’t have to know everything, you just have to know where to find everything,’ applies here. You have access to so much in our proprietary system, Agent Power, so knowing where to find the information and how to apply it will tremendously add to your success. Plus, you can work from everywhere. Your client is completely unaware that you are working from an airplane or from the checkout line at the supermarket. They just know you are always there for them.
Recommend: What makes Avoya Travel unique among its competitors?
Steve Hirshan: It’s the whole package. Avoya clearly has the technology that is second to none, the marketing to find clients for you without having to invest your own money, and exclusive rates and top-tier commissions. Find another host that offers all of that. I dare you.