For our Luxury Travel Advisor roundtable, we gathered some of the brightest minds in the business who spoke candidly about industry trends for 2018. The sometimes-intense conversation touched frequently upon must-read issues for travel consultants and suppliers.
The discussion provided insight on how agency managers perceive the value of their independent contractors. There was also great input on how suppliers can vastly improve the results of their agency visits.
For starters, the messaging from the roundtable gathering is that 2018 has started out with a wonderfully strong rush of requests for travel. Clients are booking close in and far out, and they are spending a lot on both types of trips. The challenges? Helping travel advisors keep up with this very healthy flow of business (a good problem, I say).
There’s also the need to ensure that all your high-net-worth clients feel important, whether they’re taking a world cruise next year or frantically trying to get away for spring break next week. It’s a balancing act of poise and skill that requires a lot of training for even the best advisors.
I frequently point out that this is an excellent time to be an independent contractor since so many host agencies are vying for your business, but I learned during our roundtable that not all ICs are alike. Those that can truly move the dial on their agency’s business are the ones that their managers will want to invest in beyond the tools and marketing they provide. That help will make a difference if you’re out there on your own, managing an amazing book of business that needs nurturing.
Don’t ever underestimate the knowledge and opportunities your agency owner can provide you with, such as in-house conferences, training opportunities or simply shared knowledge culled from years of very successful operations and relationships. You don’t know what you don’t know, so I suggest ICs really strive to show their agency host that even though they’re certainly independent, they’ve also got the health of the overall organization in mind.
Suppliers, you definitely came up in the conversation, most notably in terms of how to handle office visits. While she was not at the roundtable, we can credit Anne Scully, president of McCabe World Travel, with launching this dialogue. Scully has been quite vocal about how important it is to treat supplier-advisors visits as true business meetings that will generate an ROI. It’s not just about showing up at an agency with treats, it’s about delivering intel that will immediately help to sell your product effectively.
In our roundtable discussion, our advisors acknowledged the tremendous value that supplier relationships bring, however, it’s worth noting that some have been left with the feeling that some suppliers have not come to their offices fully prepared to present effectively to their advisors.
So travel suppliers, here are your takeaways from this meeting: Vet the agency before you ask for an appointment. Who are their clients? Do not simply show up with photos of your hotel with square-footage information; instead, tell the story of the amazing experiences your company can provide. You’re speaking to salespeople who already know how to sell to some of the most affluent clients in the world, so start the conversation at a very high level.
Instead of targeting every advisor in the building, ask the office manager if you can speak to four or five who would really benefit from your conversation. Approach your visit as a bona fide business meeting, where both sides of the table will walk away with a win of some sort. You’ll walk away with quantifiable sales and so will the advisors.