Sailing through Europe: I’m shown here on the Viking Sea, which made its debut earlier this year. The ship has lovely Scandinavian touches throughout, great dining and super service. Watch for a report in a future issue.
The year 2016 started out with some rocky dynamics. A stock market tumble in January, terrorism and the Zika virus were just some of the concerns that made consumers hold back from making travel plans. Some travel advisors were affected only mildly by these events, while others reported formidable declines.
Now that it’s July, it might be wise to see where you can improve your infrastructure to withstand future unrest. If you read our cover feature on Mark Conroy of Silversea, you can garner some insights on how to run your business.
When Conroy began anew at Silversea earlier this year, he put into effect some of the best practices that had made him successful in the past. He immediately embraced the travel advisor community and sought advice from top agencies he knew well. He wasn’t afraid to ask for their opinions and he got excellent feedback that led him to setting up a fam program for advisors and other strategies that would help them sell more (for details, see page 34-39).
When you established your business, what was the first thing you did that got you good results? Did you take a risk, forge an alliance with an outside vendor or simply took the time to write down your goals to launch a profitable agency? Why not go through the same motions again to give your bottom line a boost?
Conroy also surrounds himself with good people, who know how he thinks. One of his first moves was to hire Christian Sierralta, with whom he’d worked before, as his head of national sales. Who is working with you? Do you feel as if you’re in a silo, surrounded by people who just don’t get your vision? Or, do you have colleagues who are super simpatico with you and finish your sentences the second you hesitate?
Conroy is also open to conversation; he doesn’t feel business discussions are a one-way street, and you shouldn’t always assume you’re right. The challenge for travel advisors is that listening takes time and that’s one thing none of us have a lot of these days. But, it could be worth listening to what a supplier has to offer beyond what you already know about. For example, family travel has been a challenge for those avoiding areas affected by Zika or terrorism. Do the vendors you work with for more exotic travel also provide domestic programs? Asking the question and being open to options might just be the ticket for salvaging that family vacation for wary travelers. Consider other gaps you need to fill for clients with special interests and dig in to those suppliers you already have a good relationship with to see what they have on offer.
Speaking of existing relationships, Conroy makes it quite clear that working with customers who have already sailed Silversea is more efficient than going out and starting fresh with someone new. Consider the same tactic for your business. You might have clients with whom you haven’t been in touch for quite some time, but they know how you operate and you know their preferences. Get in touch with them and don’t be nervous that they’ve moved on from you. Perhaps they’ve had a change in their life that’s kept them from traveling; if they’re coming out of a tumultuous time, hearing from you about vacation options might be just what they need.
A deep dive into your business is always a good idea, but what better time to do it than summer, when it’s easier to kick back and think about life? So, revisit your successful strategies, ask if you’ve got the right people around you, explore what your trusted suppliers can offer your clients beyond the obvious and dig deep into your list of past clients. That should fill up those lazy days of summer awfully quick, but you’re certain to see the results.