Sondra Wilson believes in going all the way--and then some--when it
comes to a supplier promotion.
In her most
recent promo, which she dubbed "Disney Days," Wilson, owner of
Carlson Wagonlit Travel/Columbia Basin Travel, based in Kennewick,
Wash., engineered a virtual media blitz. Every conceivable outlet
was used, with radio spots, a direct mail campaign, newspaper ads
and a 30-second TV commercial. In addition, a 30-minute infomercial
ran on a local cable TV station twice a day for a month.
She also tied in a "Mickey Treasure Hunt" with the ribbon
cutting of a new agency location, decorated her storefront with
Disney graphics, offered the chance to have kids' pictures taken
with a giant Mickey Mouse cut-out, and arranged for her Disney rep
to address prospects at a weekly travel talk held at Barnes and
"When your message is everywhere, it's really hard for the
community to not pay attention," said Wilson. Pay attention they
did, with happy results. At press time, with the promo still
running, she had generated over $40,000 in Disney sales.
The offer itself was relatively low-key: $25 off a Disney
package, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, and a chance to win a random
drawing for a Disney vacation. "We're not offering anything here
that's especially unique," Wilson said. "The promotion doesn't have
to include a big special to be successful."
Wilson got co-op funds from Disney for a total budget of about
$1,500; she was able to handle some of the costs of the promotion
through the barter arrangements she's worked out with, for example,
the local radio station.
She found working with Disney interesting because of the strict
guidelines she had to follow. Every detail of the promotion--from
direct mail pieces to the graphics displayed on TV--first had to be
approved by Disney's ad department. Still, she said she'd do it
again because of the strong back-up she received.
The supplier-themed, 30-minute infomercial is one of the biggest
weapons in Sondra Wilson's marketing arsenal. The owner of Carlson
Wagonlit Travel/Columbia Basin Travel, based in Kennewick, Wash.,
Wilson now runs them four or five times a year.
Typically, she'll get stock footage from the supplier, which she
supplements with commentary from herself and the supplier sales
For example, for a Disney infomercial, the footage came off a
training video and included sections on four Disney products.
"Periodically we'd break in with our phone number and say 'Call
now.'" The local cable station who runs the infomercials handles
their production, charging Wilson as part of the total ad
"Infomercials can be incredibly successful depending on where
they run," said Wilson. The key, she noted, is to find a cable
station that's "accessible" on the dial. Wilson is particularly
happy that the station she uses is on channel 3, since her major TV
stations are channels 2, 4 and 6, and viewers are bound to come
across her infomercials while channel surfing.
if you don't get commission on clients booking stays at time-share
resorts, don't consider them a lost cause profit-wise. Studies have
shown that while time-share users typically buy weekly units, for
example, they actually book trips of about 11 days--and stay in
hotels for those extra 4 days, notes a spokesman for Vistana Inc.,
the Orlando, Fla.-based time-share resort company.
Time-share users increasingly are taking two trips a year,
further expanding agent opportunities, he said. So it doesn't hurt
to talk to clients who have regularly scheduled time-share stays
about their plans.
Another way to work with time-share resorts is to take advantage
of their nightly bookings for unoccupied units. Vistana usually
pays 10% commissions on time-share transient rentals when
vacationers stay in unoccupied villa units, but has a special deal
on bookings made on stays at the company's 1,300-villa Vistana
Resort in Orlando, through Dec. 19.
Through the 20/20 program, the agency gets a 20 percent
commission plus $20 per room night for the agent employee who books
the reservation. Clients also get in on the deal, receiving $20 in
Vistana Bucks, redeemable on-site. For more information, call (800)
877-8787; if you're making a booking, mention code TW 20.
Dancing your way to profits
By Lisa Gaines
One of the best ways to make
money in the post-commission-cuts environment is by focusing on
special interest travel, according to Jacquelyn Wolfer, owner of
International Tours & Cruises-Fifth Avenue in New York.
The benefits of selling such products are many. "Not only do you
not have to discount--you can charge more because people will pay
for it," said Wolfer, who earlier this year created a cruise for
The cruise netted Wolfer more than just a lot of new business.
Along with a number of other cruise-related promotions that took
place around National Cruise Month in February, the special sailing
helped her agency win the 1998 CLIA Travel Agency Promotion Contest
grand prize in the over $2 million in sales category.
Wolfer teamed up with Dancesport, a New York dance studio, to
offer the Costa Cruise Lines sailing. The studio, which planned and
organized all on-board dance activities, placed posters advertising
the sailing and mailed fliers to its members. Included in the
cruise were "a lot of features that cost us nothing but attracted
people who like to dance," said Wolfer, including group lessons,
seminars, cocktail parties, Dancesport shows and an excursion to a
famous San Juan dance club.
The agency gave the free cruises offered to group organizers to
those dance instructors who were able to sign up at least 15
That cruise attracted 47 customers and earned the travel agency
$17,200 in commissions. Since then, 12 other dance groups have
booked similar programs with the agency.
And "it's not just ballroom dancing--it's bridge, golf and
tennis, health and fitness" and other special interest groups that
have widened the agency's client base, said Wolfer. Cruising, she
noted, has provided an excellent outlet for those groups. "You pay
one rate, clients are treated like royalty, and cruises have
something to offer everybody."
Job Seekers Bulletin
If you're a front-line agent looking for a job, check out Travel
1998, a series of job fairs being held in major U.S. cities
beginning in mid-September by Travel Solutions Group (TSG), the
Rolling Meadows, Il.-based placement firm.
For agency owners also shopping for good employees,
participation in Travel 1998 will be limited to only six travel
agencies per city., with registration still being accepted for some
Travel 1998 begins in Somerset, N.J., on Sept. 14; then moves to
New York (Sept. 15 and 16); Washington (Sept. 23); Philadelphia
(Sept. 24); Chicago (Sept. 28); Atlanta (Oct. 1): Dallas (Oct. 5)
Phoenix (Oct. 7); Los Angeles (Oct. 13); Orange County, Calif.
(Oct. 14); and San Francisco (Oct. 15).
For further information, check out the company's Web site at
www.travelsolutionsgroup.com or call toll free (877) 449-JOBS.
This is a good place to get your hands on contact information
for state tourism offices. Canadian agents might find it
particularly useful, given that many listings provide toll-free
numbers for persons calling from Canada. The site also has some
useful links, including ones to Yahoo!
This site offers articles about European destinations; a
currency converter for European and Middle Eastern currencies;
product news from suppliers, and an interesting section called
"Miss Elainey's Notes," which features "news and gossip." A new
Travel Agents Connection feature enables European specialists to
list themselves on the site. There is also a link to an
Inteletravel agent recruitment site.
Compiled by Jennifer Dorsey. E-mail suggestions to [email protected]