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By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE[/caption]
Travel is back in a big way. Many industry veterans are saying that the demand for travel advisors is greater than they have ever seen. Travelers are looking for a guide and a partner, not just someone to make a booking for them. Equally important, travel advisors are looking for partners too.
I firmly believe that relationships matter more in the travel industry than they do in many other industries. And because those relationships are so important, you have to spend time nurturing them. You also have to recognize when a partnership isn’t working and you need to find new partners.
I don’t think travel advisors take as much time making partnership decisions as they should. Sometimes they are too focused on price and swear that is the most important factor for their clients. Do your clients want great value for their vacation budget? Of course. But they will pay more to get more value. (If you are truly working with clients that only care about the cheapest price, you are making your life too difficult. Upgrade your clients and make life easier.)
You and your business have been through some significant changes over the past year. Have you taken the time to evaluate and update your own preferred provider list? Every agency has a list of their top partners – companies they can count on both for top commissions and for support when there’s a problem. You should have your own list too.
It’s not just about who can provide what your clients need, it’s about identifying partners that take care of you too. I have often been surprised by how much bad behavior travel advisors put up with from vendor partners – from stealing clients to making you jump through hoops to get your commission. Why do travel advisors reward that behavior with more bookings? Shouldn’t it be a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” situation?
You do have options. And there are many great travel partners out there who want to work with you. They appreciate your business. They understand you are critical to the success of their business. Seek out those partners and reward them with loyalty!
For those who may feel you don’t have any control over what your products your clients want, I challenge you to change that thinking. You are the subject matter expert. Even if they came to you asking for a particular product, you should always qualify them to make sure that’s really the right fit. And if you don’t want to work with a partner, tell your client you have a better option and explain why it is a better option.
To be successful in influencing your clients’ opinions, you will need to first establish yourself as a subject matter expert. That goes back to the types of communication your client gets from you. From social media to email campaigns, it all speaks to your value. If everything you send out is a vendor-driven offer or a deal, you aren’t doing anything to build your own value. You are just functioning as a middleman for someone else. There’s no value in that.
Once you’ve established that level of trust with your clients, they will gladly listen to your opinion about the service providers who will be providing their vacation. They wouldn’t think of doing otherwise. If they know you are well-connected and have done your due diligence, they will be thankful for any advice you have to offer.
If you need recommendations about preferred partners, lean into your host agency and consortium. They will both have lists of companies they trust and work with regularly. From those lists, you can create your own list of partners you love working with! Build a relationship with them and it will serve you both well!