September 6, 2018 Blog

Like many other industries, there is seasonality in the travel industry. The period of January through April (“wave” season) is by far the busiest time of the year. Why? People are back at work and the holidays are over, and for many it is time to get their annual vacations on the calendar for the year.

Whether you are considering getting into the industry, you’re fairly new, or you are a seasoned agent, NOW is the time to get ready for success in 2019. When you lay the right groundwork, you will go from the quiet days of December to the chaos of January and you’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a wave – and you’ll understand the term!

My number one tip for getting ready for 2019 is this: Stop thinking like an employee and instead think like a business owner. As an independent contractor you ARE a business owner. And if you are always thinking like an employee, you aren’t going to be successful. Period. You are solely responsible for the success of your business, so start taking steps to improve your bottom line.

If you have been at this for a while, it might mean that what you’ve done this year hasn’t served you well. That’s OK! You can course-correct. Every successful business does it. Sometimes we have great ideas that don’t work out the way we hoped. The important thing is to choose another course based on good advice, not just picking one at random. So where do you get good advice? A mentor who is successful (not just seems successful). You can hire a travel industry coach (contact me if you want a recommendation) or find someone who has a business that you admire and ask them to mentor you. (But be aware that some people who are great at their own businesses aren’t that keen to be mentors and not everyone is good at it. Don’t take it personally.)

For those who are considering getting in the travel industry or are just getting started, please allow me to share two suggestions based on my 18 years in the travel business:

  1. Please understand that product knowledge DOES NOT equate to success in travel. You can take every single training course offered by cruise lines, tour operators, and destinations, and it does NOT bring you clients. Period. And yet most people who are new to the industry spend most of their time on this type of training. Instead, you should be sending your training time on marketing and business education. Learn to be a smarter business owner first or you will end up with a well-rounded knowledge of a hobby, and not a business that makes money.
  2. Being a generalist is NOT a path to success. Period. You will probably have lots of existing agents tell you to just sell whatever people are interested in and not think about specializing in anything until you have been in business for a few years. That is BAD advice because specializing helps determine how you market and who you market to. Without marketing you aren’t going to have clients. A marketing message that basically says, “Call me, I can do anything!” doesn’t work! Instead, you need to figure out what you can help people with and that’s what they will respond to. And that’s also what they will pay a fee for. People are looking for specialists and experts – not generalists. Want further proof? Check out this article that was recently in Forbes.

If you are really new or looking to get started, a great training program will dramatically shorten your learning curve and teach you proven methods of success. I think our Travel MBA program is the best out there, but I also wrote an article on how to evaluate the many travel training programs that are out there.

If you approach getting ready for 2019 focused on getting more vendor knowledge and adding to that stack of certifications, you aren’t going to be successful. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Instead, focus on the business. Look at your numbers. Evaluate your marketing. And get in the right mindset to make 2019 your best year yet!

By Sandy Saburn