As you read on PAX earlier this week, more than 400 travel professionals attended the second annual Travel MarketPlace, held this year at the International Plaza in Toronto on June 16 & 17. Attendees were provided with insights on various topics by thought leaders within the industry, providing their take on best practices and business strategies that could lead to further success. Here are a few highlights that we walked away with:
On client communications:
From Dave Holt, CSP, Facilitator and Sales Performance Coach, DWG Performance, Inc
- People instinctively get guarded if they are suddenly bombarded with questions, Holt suggested. To avoid off-putting clients and in an effort to yield better results, travel agents can demonstrate an added level of respect for their clients' time and increase engagement by starting off with these three points:
Before we begin, I'd just like to make sure – do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Do you have time for a discussion now?
Do you mind if I take notes?
- Expanding on this, Holt said travel agents often stay surface level when it comes to asking questions of their clients. Take it a step further and be engaged with their passions. Instead of questions that begin with "what" or "why", try "Describe," "Paint me a picture," "Walk me through..."
On leveraging Internet capabilities:
From Richard Vanderlubbe, president, tripcentral.ca
"The web is not a channel of distribution; it's a channel of communication... You need to be working with the web– not against it – in order to truly engage the consumer and make sure they buy from you."
- Thinking that the Internet is a booking path or a way consumers want to buy is a very narrow view of what the web is, Vanderlubbe said, challenging his audience to "open their minds." Instead, think about it as a way to interact with your client. Think about how you can embrace it and bring it into your business; be proactive by taking on the role as the source of inspiration for your clients in between trips via e-mail and marketing communications to highlight certain products or destinations.
On hiring & retaining talent:
From Jeff Verman, Uniglobe Plus Travel Group
"I tend to hire people who are not looking for a job. I tend to hire people who are happy where they are because I know I can make them happy in my organization."
- Verman said he has had "tremendous success" using LinkedIn for hiring, noting that leveraging this platform has saved him more than $30,000 in recruiting costs. That said, it is important to have a thorough understanding of effective search methods in addition to good communication skills in order to entice those candidates you find thereafter.
From Colleen Stephenson, travel consultant, Marlin Travel
"Think outside the box."
- Colleen was working for a bank when she was approached to become a travel agent. She says that employers should consider seeking out sales people from other industries. In many cases, "you'll be opening up a world they didn't know existed."
On the value of hiring youth:
From Victoria Marsh, Latin America coordinator at Trufflepig Travel Inc.
"Overall, you want to find somebody who shares the same passion as you, and will go really far with you. As long as that person has the passion for travel, they're going to be successful with you."
From Melissa Medeiros, chapter liaison/public relations manager, Young Travel Professionals
"Hiring a young professional is an opportunity to get new ideas and fresh perspectives into your business... but lot of employers are looking for experience first, and new grads can't really provide that because they don't have it yet. Instead, try looking for someone who is resourceful, who will find a way to give you what you're looking for."
From Zachary Vanasse, account manager, marketing & tourism development, Bannikin Travel & Tourism
"There's the thought that youth today jumps around from job to job, and statistically speaking, that's accurate. But some of us see [experiential opportunities] in the natural growth of a company. If you see an opportunity for you to grow with any company, that's a good enough reason to stick around."
- A panel of young professionals explored idea that today's youth are entitled, lack drive and rarely stay at a job for more than two years. In an interactive session, the speakers questioned the reliability of lumping a single generation together and discussed what employers can do to foster growth within their younger employees - and what those employees can do for a company in return.
On creating powerful partnerships:
From Vanessa McGovern, VP of business development & strategic partnerships, GIFTE
- Highlighting a proven B2B group strategy in an inspiring and easy-to-digest manner, McGovern shared a joint venture process that demonstrated how to identify the right partner, establish your value and pitch a group cruise to fellow small business owners. Using a winery as an example, a member of the GIFTE community followed this strategy and executed a $200,000 river cruise flawlessly using these systems.
On not being needed:
From Nolan Burris, founder, Future Proof Travel Solutions
"Nobody needs a BMW, nobody needs a diamond ring, nobody really needs a vacation. They WANT them... we're emotionally invested in things that we want, which is why you don't want to be needed. You want to be wanted. You want to be desired."
- Zeroing in on the conception that travel advisors are becoming less relevant in a digital age where reservations and prices are but a click away, Burris maintained that the key for success in today's travel industry is to stop thinking about whether consumers need travel agents, and to focus on the element desire that drives travel.