7 Things That You Could Be Doing Right Now
By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

There is an interesting parallel to Aesop’s fable, The Ants & The Grasshopper, going on in the travel industry right now. You know it – that’s the one where the ants are busy preparing for winter and the grasshopper asks for food because he was too busy playing in the summer to prepare.

Our industry has been somewhat like that over the past 11 months. Some travel advisors have been as busy as, well, ants preparing for the rebound. They have been working on marketing plans and building their list. They have been focused on systems to make their life easier when they are busy working with clients again. They are digging into education of all types.

Another group has not been busy playing, but they have just not been busy preparing. Some I am sure have been unsure of what to do. They are used to a reactive business where the inquiry from the client makes something happen and when there is no inquiry, they don’t know what to do.

If you are an independent travel advisor, you are an entrepreneur. You are responsible for what happens – and doesn’t happen – in your business.

Let’s face it, most travel advisors are probably a little bit ant and a little bit grasshopper in this scenario. I truly hope that you took the time to play and enjoy yourself. Play is important to our mental and physical health. It will make you a better entrepreneur.

But you need to be part ant too! Now is the time to channel our inner ants and get ready! We aren’t preparing for winter, but for spring! The rebound has started (I shared why I think that’s true last week) and you are running out of time to get ready!

To give you a starting point, here are my top 7 things I think every travel advisor needs to do now to be ready for the rebound.

  1. Branding – do you have a professional brand including email (not Gmail or Yahoo but your own domain), website, and logo that speaks to your ideal client? Does anything need updating, tweaking, or refreshing? Remember, DIY branding attracts DIY clients that make you little money and waste your time.
  2. Marketing for Client Attraction – what are you doing to get new people on your list? This is a task that is ongoing – not something to do once in a while. There are lots of ways to expand your list from Facebook ads to virtual events.
  3. Marketing for Client Retention – are you sending out a regular email to the people on your list? You should be! This is the single most powerful marketing tool in your tool kit. Remember, if you aren’t communicating with your clients, they may think you’ve gone out of business.
  4. Analyze your Financials – while your 2020 numbers probably weren’t very exciting, go back and dig into 2019 numbers. Make sure you know who your top 10 clients are by sales AND by commission. Same thing for vendors – not just who you sold the most, but who did you make the most commission from? What was your average booking size? Use this to set goals for 2021.
  5. Streamline your Systems – Think back to the busy days of early 2020. Did you have all the forms you needed? Were you comfortable using all the software you are paying for? Do you need to invest in something new to make life easier? Perhaps a workflow management system? Now is the time to identify bottlenecks and pain points and eliminate them.
  6. Evaluate your Fee Structure – If you aren’t charging fees, now is the time to start. It is a shame that it took the pandemic to make so many travel advisors realize that without fees they were working for free. Your knowledge and time are far too valuable to work for free! Implement a fee structure now and stick to it in the future. I bet you find the majority of your existing clients who know and love you will say, “I always wondered why you didn’t charge a fee!”
  7. Connect (or Reconnect) with Vendor Partners – In the travel industry relationships are everything. Make sure you have a great relationship with your vendor representatives. Reach out to say hello. They will be thrilled to hear from you. Tap into their expertise about how you can build your business – they have lots of ideas.

Brighter days are ahead for travel advisors. Many people believe that a golden age for travel advisors is on its way. I believe that. The comeback for our industry is going to be strong, but not everyone is going to be prepared to take advantage of it. Make sure you’re ready!