|I’m Shown Here With Jon Makhmaltchi, vice president of worldwide sales of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and Paul Kerr, SLH’s CEO and founder, who were in Manhattan recently for an SLH regional meeting.|
When you speak with Roger Miller, CEO of Minnetonka Travel & Cruises, who is profiled in our cover story this month, you want to pick up and move to Minnesota. You want to sell travel. You want to have a wonderful environment in your travel agency, with, perhaps, a glass of wine at the end of the week if business has been good.
After I spoke with Miller at length for this story, I was reminded of how important the basics of this business are. Here’s what comes to mind after I had a chance to delve into how he operates.
Relationships Matter: Miller, who started his career with Northwest Airlines, has always had great relationships with the people in the travel industry. He continued that practice when he entered the agency field 35 years ago. He’s able to do business with people he is friends with and his friendships have yielded good business for him and his agency.
Suppliers Matter: When I hear that some luxury travel advisors treat their supplier partners poorly, I cringe. Supplier reps get on airplanes, rent cars and drive around local communities, often with cake and cookies, or some other treat that will delight their travel agency friends. They exist to make your lives better, so that you can thrive. Ninety-nine percent of the advisors in the business know this, but that one percent who are rude, demanding and constantly complaining make everyone look bad. Let’s hear it for the reps who travel through rain and snow to help you sell their product, and let’s hear it now!
Travel Advisors Matter: Miller celebrates his advisors’ successes and does his best to steer away from the negative. This is done in simple ways—by coming together and quietly recognizing those who have done especially well that week. This sends everyone off happily for the weekend and makes them want to return on Monday.
Travel is Vital for Advisors: One of Miller’s advisors returned from a wonderful trip to South Africa and soon convinced a honeymoon couple with plans to travel somewhat locally to go to her new favorite destination. She devised an intricate South Africa itinerary for them that became the trip of a lifetime. The math is simple: Advisor + Travel = Sales.
Work Closely with Your Consortia: Are you paying big bucks to a travel group and allowing your advisors to book whichever suppliers they prefer? Time to set some rules. Your consortium has worked hard to select a full range of suppliers to suit all sorts of travel needs. By selling them exclusively, your agency makes more money. If you feel your consortium doesn’t provide the suppliers you need, speak up or move your business to another group. In his agency’s case, Miller has followed Vacation.com’s preferred supplier program to a tee and Minnetonka Travel has managed to triple its sales with one vendor in particular.
Community is Important: In the age of the Internet and the ability to sell globally, don’t forget that consumers walking up and down Main Street USA are still looking for their local travel agency. If you’re not brick-and-mortar, make sure they can find you and that they know you are their local travel expert. If you still do have a storefront agency, celebrate that. I passed a travel agency on Long Island, NY, the other day that had faded “Winter Sale” signs on its windows. I wouldn’t want to step into that agency to ask for directions on how to get down the street, much less book a trip. Show your community that you have pride in who you are. Fix up that office now. If it looks like a college dorm, come in on the weekend and pull your look together. This is the face of your business. Speaking of which, what’s hanging on your agency window right now?
For more on Roger Miller and Minnetonka Travel & Cruises, see pages 32-36.