Travel Agent Professional March 2011 Issue 3
4 8 14
An Interview With Scott... By Mary Brutscher
Client for Life... By Mitchell J. Schlesinger
Why Are You In This Business? By Rusty Pickett
provides a luxurious retreat from the everyday. We want every moment of your clients’ vacation to be exceptional. That’s why we created our exclusive, spa-inspired AquaClass® staterooms. Where guests can retreat to plush linens, down comforters and Frette bathrobes and revel in a private haven featuring a spacious veranda with stunning views.
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©2011 Celebrity Cruises Inc. Ships’ registry: Malta and Ecuador. 11022868 • 03/2011
Avoya Travel/America’s http://issuu.com/action/page?page=6
Vacation Center An Interview With Scott Koepf By Mary Brutscher
Former Host Agency Owner & Travel Educational Instructor
Malt Shop Memories http://issuu.com/action/page?page=10
By Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal
http://issuu.com/action/page?page=12 Clients for Life: The
By Mitchell J. Schlesinger Vice President, Sales & Marketing Voyages to Antiquity
Why Are You In This Business? By Rusty Pickett, ECC Shellback Cruises
Razzle Dazzle By Scott Koepf
Vice President of Sales Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center
Http://www.JoinAvoya.com Avoya Travel/AVC.......................IBC http://www.azamaraclubcruises.com Azamara Club Cruises ....................7 Http://www.celebrity.com Celebrity Cruises ........................IFC http://www.leisurepops.com/ Leisure Pops ...........................17, 19
Travel Agent Professional
http://www.royalcaribbean.com/ Royal Caribbean Line ...................BC http://www.trams.com/ TRAMS .........................................15 http://www.myhosttravelagency.com Travel Planners Int’l......................13 http://us.voyagestoantiquity.com/ Voyages to Antiquity ......................3
Travel Agent Professional March 2011 Issue 3
Travel Agent Professional P.O. Box 120202 Staten Island, NY 10312 E-mail: mailto:email@example.com Phone: 718.227.7541
Joel M. Abels
Legend In the Travel Industry April 1927 to January 2007
Ann M. Hoek Publisher/Creative Design Bonnie Walling Editor
Meet Our Editorial Board Mitchell J. Schlesinger Vice President, Sales & Marketing Voyages to Antiquity www.voyagestoantiquity.com Mary Brutscher Former Host Agency Owner & Travel Educational Instructor mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Rusty Pickett, ECC Shellback Cruises www.shellbackcruises.com Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal Scott Koepf Vice President of Sales Avoya Travel/ America’s Vacation Center www.JoinAvoya.com Sherry Laskin, ACC Travel Writer, Blogger & Social Media Advisor www.sherrylaskin.com Sherrie Funk Co-owner & President of Just Cruisin’ Plus www.justcruisinplus.com
Contributions Lee Rosen, CEO Leisure Pops www.leisurepops.com This online magazine is dedicated to the memory of Joel Abels, Travel Trade's editor and publisher. Joel and his life's work may be gone, but with your help it can live on.
Travel Agent Professional has its roots in Home Based Trade, the first magazine of its kind, started by Joel Abels in 2004. Joel and Lenore Abels ran Travel Trade for nearly half a century – it was started by her grandfather, John S. Lewis, and her father, Sidney Lewis, in 1929, and they took the publication over after her grandfather’s passing. Under Joel’s direction, the company grew to be one of the travel agent industry’s leading publications, reaching more than 45,000 agents throughout North America. It spawned a famous series of trade shows and three monthly magazines – Cruise Trade, Tour Trade and Home Based Trade. The Abels also garnered enormous respect – Joel received the Neal Award, called “the Pulitzer Prize of the business press,” for his hard-hitting editorials. On a personal note, after working with Joel for over a decade and staying with him until the end, I grew to truly care for and respect the man. He was like a second father to me. Joel was old school, he stood by his word and believed in his work. There will never be another. While nobody can replace this industry legend, we’re hoping that this new publication, which reunites the original Home Based Trade editorial board, will be able to carry on his passion for travel and those who sell it.
Ann M. Hoek
It was through
JoelÕs perseverance, insight and love for the
travel agent community and a relationship to the industry as a whole that has enabled all of us to succeed and prosper as entrepreneurs in the travel industry. — Sherry Kennedy Reprinted from Feb. 2007 Home Based Trade with writer permission
VOYAGES TO ANTIQUITY
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VOYAGES TO ANTIQUITY Call 1-877-398-1460 Visitwww.voyagestoantiquity.com www.voyagestoantiquity.com Visit Prices are per person, double occupancy, cat N. Free to $199 Air (and transfers) applicable with cruise-tour purchase only and does not include government taxes, fees and airline fuel surcharges which may change at any time. Stateroom Savings based on double occupancy and vary by category and sailing.All offers are subject to availability, capacity controlled and may be withdrawn at any time. Ship’s Registry: Malta.
Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center
By Mary Brutscher
An Interview With Scott Koepf For
this month’s host focus, I spoke to Scott Koepf, travel industry veteran (and not a bad singer either!) who is currently the vice president of sales for Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center. Mary Brutscher mailto:email@example.com
Mary Brutscher: Scott, you’ve been a name in the travel industry for quite awhile now, are well respected among your peers and travel agents throughout the country and you have provided some great insight into the sales aspect of the industry to new agents and veterans alike. With that in mind, please provide us with some insight into s and why you think it could increase an agent’s sales. Scott Koepf: After 25 years in the industry, I’ve learned that there are two businesses that travel professionals get themselves into — the marketing business and the selling business. Marketing is becoming increasingly more difficult for smaller agencies to compete with larger agencies, and more expensive than ever before. It is difficult for travel professionals to remain competitive and continue to find new clients, and without customers, agencies cannot continue to sell
travel. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center is a perfect balance, offering independent agencies the ability to outsource their marketing, as well as other aspects of their business, so that the travel professional can focus on building their sales based on the specialties they want to sell. MB: What sets Avoya Travel apart from its competition? What are the benefits of affiliating with Avoya Travel? Scott: Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center offers a turnkey marketing solution unlike anything in the industry that enables travel professionals to do what they do best – sell travel. There is a statistic out there that 65% of all travel business starts with Internet research. This means that consumers are going online to search for their vacation, so not only do they have more
5 options and resources available, they are also more educated on products, pricing, and deals. Today, it is almost impossible for independent agencies to compete in this online marketplace and have their websites be found by consumers. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center is unique because travel professionals can benefit from world-class, competitive marketing without incurring the cost, or spending the time. We also provide every independent agency with a private label Web site, which shares the content with and looks just like our AvoyaTravel.com site, except it displays the travel professional’s contact information. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center offers many benefits in addition to our turnkey marketing, which sets us apart from our competition. One example of benefits is the fact that Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center has been affiliated with the American Express Travel Representative Network for over 20 years, which offers many benefits to our independent agencies and their customers, including being able to offer clients the option to purchase their vacation using their American Express Membership Rewards Points! Additionally, Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center’s network of independent agencies also have access to our award-winning, patent-pending Agent Power™ technology to operate their business more efficiently. The integrated Web-based program offers our Independent Affiliates improved CRM resources, on-demand supplier and business trainings, Internal social media to help independent affiliates connect with each other, easy commission tracking, and
more. Commissions are paid to our network via automatic deposit on a weekly basis and we are the only host agency in the industry to pay weekly. MB: Prompt payment of commission has always been a major concern for travel agents and many have faced difficulties collecting commissions owed them. It’s fantastic to know that those commissions are paid not only promptly, but on a weekly basis as well! What do you perceive as the agent’s biggest obstacle with today’s economy and how can Avoya Travel help agents overcome these obstacles? Scott: The biggest obstacle today for travel professionals is finding new customers. Good travel agencies have repeat and referral clients, however most agencies need more customers to continue to grow and prosper. Every agency needs new leads; however, it is competitive and expensive, both in time and money, to find these new customers. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center helps entrepreneurs overcome this obstacle with its turnkey marketing, which allows travel agencies to gain the time and money back that they would have spent themselves on marketing so they can spend it working leads and closing sales to ultimately make more money. MB: I like that you use the word entrepreneurs to refer to these agents because that is exactly what they are. This is a business venture (and adventure) just like with any other industry and has its share of stumbling blocks and issues to overcome. I’ve asked other hosting programs abut one particular issue that continues to be a major concern: When agents affiliate with a host who is out of their area, (continued on page 6)
Travel Agent Professional
6 they fear they will miss out on local events, such as supplier training functions, ship inspections and so forth. How would you address these worries? Scott: Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center has hundreds of Independent Affiliates located all over the United States and beyond. We haven’t found this to be a concern in our network because we have support staff specifically assigned to working with our preferred suppliers. Our strong relationships with these suppliers enable us to make training, FAMs, ship inspections, special supplier events, and more available to our network of Independent Affiliates on a continuous basis. MB: Does Avoya Travel offer marketing programs for their agents? Scott: This is a good question and most host agencies would answer it with a yes. Many host agencies would also explain how the programs offered help travel professionals reach their own databases and market to this list of customers. With these models, ultimately the travel professional still has to find the customer. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center has an opportunity like no one else! While our Independent Affiliates may have their own book of business, it isn’t necessary because we also offer new clients through our Live Leads™ program. MB: Some agents have tightened their belts even more these days and some may consider Avoya Travel and other large hosting programs beyond their reach. How would you answer these agents? Scott: Our business model is based on Shared Success and not on charging multiple fees for using various
Scott Koepf Vice President of Sales Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center www.JoinAvoya.com
aspects of our program. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center has one initial flat-rate start-up fee, which is very reasonable. We have a Shared Success model of doing business and are not fee-based. Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center is looking for entrepreneurial-minded professionals who want to run their own travel business. We’re not interested in hobbyists and travel agents that aren’t serious about selling vacations. For dedicated travel professionals, when they affiliate their independent agencies with Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center, the time and money they save in marketing and building their client data-base is unmatched – largely because of our investment in marketing for Live Leads™, which are new customers. MB: Does Avoya Travel accept new agents and if not, how would a prospective agent qualify, such as time requirement or travel school? Scott: Avoya Travel/America’s Vacation Center’s current model isn’t designed for new travel agents. In our existing model, we’d like to have experienced travel professionals with a proven sales history because we have customers today ready to be connected with our Independent Affiliates, and we need them to be ready to close sales.
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Tuesday 9:00pm: Savor a dinner of falafel and Israeli salad
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Wednesday 1:00pm: Fall in love with Jerusalem
Azamara Quest ÂŽ April 24, 2011 |
Dubai, UAE to Athens (Piraeus), Greece
| 12 Nights
Athens (Piraeus), Greece to Haifa, Israel
May 16, 2011 |
Haifa, Israel to Athens (Piraeus), Greece
May 6, 2011
Starting from $1,899 | |
Starting from $2,499 Starting from $2,599
For more information visit CruisingPower.com
$ 6 , $ Â‡ 6 2 8 7 + $ 0 ( 5 , & $ Â‡ G R E E K I S L E S Â‡ % ( 6 7 2 ) , 7$ /< Â‡ ) 5 ( 1 & + , 7$ / , $ 1 5 , 9 , ( 5 $ H O LY L A N D Â‡ % 5 , 7 , 6 + , 6 / ( 6 Â‡ : ( 6 7 ( 5 1 ( 8 5 2 3 ( Â‡ 6 & $ 1 ' , 1 $ 9 , $ 7 + ( % $ /7 , & 6 Â‡ : ( 6 7 , 1 ' , ( 6
Azamara Club Cruises is a proud member of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. family of cruise lines All rates are per person based on double occupancy, for individual bookings, cruise only, in USD, and subject to availability. Rates may vary by ship, departure date, and stateroom category. All rates, offers and itineraries are subject to change without notice. Offers may be withdrawn at any time. Government taxes & fees are additional. Activities shown are conceptual, and will change depending on itinerary. ÂŠ2011 Azamara Club Cruises. Shipsâ€™ Registry: Malta.
Travel Agent Professional
B y L e s - L e e R o l a n d Les-Lee Roland Owner of The Package Deal
Baby Boomers are the largest target audience you can reach today. For agents who are looking for a niche market, this one should be at the top of your list.
So take this love of music and reach out to the many baby boomers around you, and introduce them to the Malt Shop Memories Cruise.
When you think of Baby Boomers, it doesn’t matter which part of the country they reside, there is one common denominator that is shared — MUSIC! Besides making the hula hoop and coonskin Davy Crockett hats the biggest fads of the 50s, they also bought more 45s than any generation. (For those too young to remember, 45s were records, not guns).
What makes this sailing different from the few theme cruises we’ve heard about before? This cruise is the only full ship charter devoted to this genre of music. The Carnival Inspiration will sail from Tampa, Oct 27-31, stopping at Grand Bahama. It is the only cruise that will have The Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Jay Black, Shirley Alston Reeves, Lou Christie, among other groups and entertainers who will be appearing throughout the cruise.
Chubby Checker taught an entire generation how to Twist. The Beach Boys introduced surfing to mid America, And groups like the Fireflies, the Devotions, the Del Rays, and Little Anthony and the Imperials were as popular then as Lady Gaga is today. And the words Doo-Wop still make people smile!
Onboard events will include an Elvis Tribute Artist Contest hosted by Shawn Klush, who is an imitator of the King himself. All will be competing for a $2,500 prize, plus additional perks.
And how about Elvis? His music is even more popular today than when his hips were gyrating.
So let’s review how this is a bonus for travel agents. This full ship charter is totally commissionable, except for the port charges/fees/gratu-
Memories Cruise ities. The shows are all included in the cruise rate, unlike other theme cruises. Everyone on board is there for the entertainment, and there is more offered on this cruise than any other. There will be daytime shows as well as the main evening entertainment in the theater, plus dance contests and theme parties, such as a prom, a beach party and a sock hop. Clients can see the complete lineup via a dedicated Web page.
How to find ideal candidates for this perfect group booking opportunity? Agents should check their database – start first with the Baby Boomers. Look around in your area for young retirement communities. Contact high school reunion committees. Tie in a promotion with local merchants who cater to the same genre.
The public cannot book this with Carnival- it has to be booked through a travel agent or the Web site. There even is a payment plan you can offer.
This entire event is run by Jazz Cruises, a full ship charter company dedicated to music. They know how to treat your clients to the party of their lives. For the past ten years, both their Smooth Jazz and their Straight Up Jazz cruises have been sold out with people coming from all over the world.
Plus, if you book your clients now, they get to choose a bonus- choices ranging from a shipboard credit, a 4 CD gift, front row seats for a performance, and Meet and Greet sessions with Chubby Checker or other performers.
Agents can visit the website, www.maltshopcruise.com or call Timeless Destinations at 305-651-3636 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and register to sell this “Experience of a Lifetime.”
Travel Agent Professional
10 Clients for Life: By Mitchell
The Successful Customer
The Three “Rs”
Buildings are not constructed without a foundation. Neither are successful customer service action plans that enable you to capture “Clients for Life.” The comMitchell J. Schlesinger Vice President, Sales & Marketing Voyages to Antiquity email@example.com
plete foundation consists of the combination of the information presented in previous ar ticles. Fur ther development of the action plan needs these key elements PLUS the 3 “R”s.
Database Everything you know about your clients’ travel history, personal preferences, hobbies, demographics, psychographics, etc. makes your relationship with them seem that much more connected. Find the technology right for you to build a CRM model for each of your clients.
Managing the Client Relationship Every point of contact with you and/or your team is a judged evaluation by your clients. If there are team members, they must be properly trained to understand precisely the importance of each and every client in terms of purchasing their own travel and, more importantly, their value as an unofficial member of the agency’s sales team by virtue of their referrals. Conveying the importance of understanding consumer behavior is crucial in managing the customer relationship and having clients build trust that you are providing them with travel recommendations based on what you know about them demographically and psychographically.
11 Service Action Plan Needs
Implementing the 3 Rs Recognition As part of managing the customer relationship, recognition is highlighted by the critical aspects contributing to the process of retaining client loyalty. Engagement: Your opportunity to create a “connected relationship” with your clients and provide a personalized level of service far superior to anything they can receive from online or mega agencies. Travel sellers ask all the time; “what can I do to compete with these big agencies?” You can insure that you establish a service standard that cannot be duplicated and by creating a connected relationship only you can provide personalized travel recommendations that come from your knowing more about your clients than anyone else. Part of the team: Invite loyal clients to speak on
your behalf at cruise nights and agency sales events. Also, use their pictures and testimonials on your Web site after they return from the trip. It personalizes your agency and strengthens the relationship with your clients. Communications: Think in terms of the amount and the style of communication your clients (and you) receive from airline or hotel programs they may belong to. While the communication is personally directed, it contains no real personal connection. They are also receiving direct mail and/or E-mail communications directly from suppliers. Make sure that as part of managing their travel over time, your communication does the best job of recognizing them and includes recommended travel based on previous history and personal preferences and aspirations. (continued on page 12)
Travel Agent Professional
12 Referrals In an earlier article I referred to client loyalty as a legal pyramid scheme and that implementing an effective referral program can be the catalyst for aggressively generating new clients. Measuring the value of a client includes their own travel PLUS the number of referrals they provide to your agency. The repeat travel metric is a function of how often they book travel with you, how much they spend and if the spend level increases with each trip, the percentage; The referral metric is a measurement over time of the number of clients they refer annually and the calculation of the travel spending from the new clients; This value recognition is an important distinction for clients providing you with significant referral business in conjunction with their own travel activity. An effective referral program should be the result of two scenarios: 1. With the combination of superior service and travel experiences that have fully met and/or exceeded expectations, clients are compelled to tell others about their trip and your agency. Clients love to tell family and friends about memorable vacations. 2. You harness these positive reactions with a reward program addressed below.
Rewards A successful rewards program should be implemented with two targets in mind: Clients: An effective referral reward program for existing clients should be simple, tangible and cumulative. It should also be scaled to reflect the expenditures of the products being purchased by referred traveler. As an example, providing a $25 referral fee per guest is fine when the new client purchases a travel product under $1,000 per person, however the rewards should
scale up as the spending increases. When an existing luxury client refers a new client who books a $10,000 trip, the reward should give your client the perception that you truly value their support. Team Members: In order to ensure that your customer service action plan succeeds, it must also reward agency team members for providing the level of customer service that meets and exceeds the standards YOU set. An age old truism for managing teams is this: tell them and they will listen, show them and they will look, involve them and they will understand. Remember, you must involve your team so that they fully understand the customer service standard and remind them that they are always an ambassador for the agency. Most importantly, rewards can modify and reinforce behavior and a variety of recognition components make for powerful rewards. Reward incentives for teams and team members should be based on and structured with several elements, including: • Comments from clients; • Recommendations from other team members; • Your own observations; • Bonuses for bookings, scaled by expenditure; • Agency productivity weekly, monthly, quarterly etc.; • Service recognition that includes a PR release to a local newspaper and in a newsletter you send to clients; • “On the spot” mini-rewards (i.e.; gift cards) for individual service performance; • “Surprise” team awards (lunches or dinners together) for positive results; • Individual rewards for sales and service over designated periods of time. So, to sum up: Successfully implementing a customer service action plan that retains clients for life requires treating customers as lifetime partners and ensuring that team members fully understand the customer service standards and implementing the 3 R’s.
14 W hy A re Yo u I n T h i s http://issuu.com/action/page?page=1
Rusty Pickett, ECC
Rusty Pickett, ECC Shellback Cruises www.shellbackcruises.com
When was the last time you seriously sat down and contemplated why you are in this business? I think if you do this periodically, you find yourself becoming a better agent, providing better service to your customers. Here are some random thoughts on possible answers.
“I love to travel.” This is probably true for most of us. But does that mean you can transfer your excitement to a client or run a business? Why do you love to travel – simply to get away from home and relieve whatever stress you are under (a vacation), or to expand your knowledge and understanding of another culture, its people and geographic location? If you are able to observe and absorb, you will likely be able to effectively pass this information to a client needing your advice. (continued on page 16)