Judy Udwin began her travel career 25 years ago, she knew two
things: I liked dealing with people and making their dream trips
come true, said Udwin, a southern African specialist at Century
Travel in Atlanta.
I felt that in order
to learn the business, you couldnt go into a specialty straight
away, said Udwin, who was born and bred in Zimbabwe. I wanted to
know how the travel business worked. I needed to learn.
She got a taste of a
little bit everything. I worked in corporate travel for three
months and absolutely hated it, she said. It was too
Udwin knew she loved
selling southern Africa. So she took it slow, beginning the
specialization process by taking friends to the region when she and
her husband went back to visit. I knew the terrain, Udwin said, and
people wanted to come back there with us. The response was
overwhelmingly positive, prompting Udwin to focus on the
Now, southern Africa
is all Udwin sells. I felt I couldnt do justice to do the whole
Continent, she said. I knew that others could do Tanzania, Kenya
and Uganda better than I.
She attributes much
of her success to contacts on the ground, including, family
members. Thats how you go that extra mile, she said.
A case in point: A
man in his 80s contacted Udwin for a trip to South Africas Cape
Town to research family members who had immigrated there from
Lithuania. He wanted to find his family, and he didnt know if they
were dead or alive, she said.
Udwin booked him in a
guesthouse where she knew hed receive the proper attention: the
Clarendon House, which is owned by Shirley Epstein. She looked
after him, and even took him to her house for dinner one night and
to the doctor when he had a problem with a sciatic
was able to find the grave site of a relative and took him to the
He also found some
living relatives there as well, she said.
Contacts also played
an important role in a wedding party for 35 people at Cape Towns
exclusive Ellerman House, which Udwin found through a Cape Town
contact and has visited personally on one of her many visits to the
city. Knowing the property and knowing the people at the hotel gave
me full confidence to use them, said Udwin.
This was no ordinary
wedding. Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, was a guest who also married the couple.
The Ellerman House
took care of the food and wine. Through my own contacts, we
organized the flowers, African drummers, marimba band and wedding
cake, said Udwin. The planning of the event caused such a stir that
Top Billing, a South African lifestyle television show, filmed the
event. The wedding party were all still in South Africa when they
featured it on TV, said Udwin. It was very exciting.
While the couple
stayed at the Ellerman House, Udwin booked the wedding party at the
five-star Cape Grace. Again, contacts helped make the stay
memorable. One night we had a whiskey tasting at the bar and for
the women we had champagne dessert in the penthouse with a local
jeweler who showed a diamond collection, she said.
Udwin supplies her
ground agents with cell phones, which, she said, makes clients feel
more comfortable knowing they can call her in the U.S.
Before clients leave,
she strongly encourages them to explore the culture of the
I try to get them
interested in the culture and people, she said. Its not only about
appears to have paid off. One couple traveling in Zambia were so
touched by the people they met that they founded a local school in
Livingstone, the Mulwani Basic School. And, on a regular basis,
other clients bring suitcases full of clothing for the
In Udwins view, her
clients return home realizing what she has known all
They love the
hospitality and warmth of the people, she said. It comes through at
every safari camp and hotel. Its the people who make the
wants to hear your story. Think youre a good candidate for an
upcoming Agent Life? Contact Claudette Covey at [email protected], and please include your
agency name, agency location, telephone number and e-mail
A sojourn in
Claire Schoeder, a U.K. specialist at
Atlanta-based Century Travel, designed a Scotland itinerary that
begins in Edinburgh and heads north to the Scottish Highlands. It
is a portion of a longer itinerary.
Travelers check into
the Scotsman in Edinburgh, a favorite of Schoeders. It is a newer,
centrally located hotel located in an old newspaper building. Some
must-see sights include Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Whisky
Heritage Center on the Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral, the Royal
Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland, and the
Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The site for dinner is
Haldanes, an elegant and intimate restaurant situated within a
Georgian Townhouse in the citys New Town.
Clients pick a rental
car at Waverly Train Station and head toward the Inverness area.
The drive takes them through Stirling (where Mary Queen of Scots
was crowned), Perth and Pitlochry. Schoeder also suggests a stop at
House of Bruar for shopping and lunch. They check into the six-room
Boath House near Nairn. That evening, they dine at Boath Houses
Clients spend a full
day on an excursion that takes them to John OGroats and Mey, the
site of the late Queen Mothers Scottish castle. This is a beautiful
drive and the roundtrip will take most of the day, said Schoeder.
They dine at the Blackfriars Pub in Inverness.
Travelers head to the Isle of Skye.
The driving time is not long but there is plenty to see, said
Schoeder. Sights include Beauly, to visit ruins of a priory; the
Loch Ness Monster exhibition at Dumnadrochit; and Urquhart Castle,
one of the most photographed sights in Scotland. Clients check into
the Kinloch Lodge, where breakfast and dinner are included in the
The day is spent
touring the Isle of Skye, which is well known for its spectacular
scenery. They can visit the Old Man of Storr (a rock formation near
the highest point on the Isle), the ruins of Duntulm Castle,
Dunvegan Castle, the Talisker Distillery and Armadale Castle, with
its Clan Donald Visitor Center and partly ruined castle.
Itinerary is an example of an itinerary an agent crafted his or
herself, not available anywhere else, but can be duplicated by
other agents to sell to their clients. To send an example of an
itinerary youve customized, e-mail Covey at [email protected].
Dialogue leads to
lucrative deals with Carnival
art of conversation may be lost on some people, but Scott Grody
isnt one of them. Nor is it lost on Susie Nixon, a Carnival Cruise
Lines business development director. The two will tell you that
simple, open communication has resulted in promotional ideas that
translate into lucrative business for the agency and cruise
There is a smooth and
open flow of creative communication between the business
development director on up to the top, said Grody, vice president
of Fugazy International Travel in Boca Raton, Fla. It lets us take
ideas from the cradle to the grave, if you will.
An example: Grody and
Nixon were sitting at a table at local event. We just talking about
what was going on in our worlds, said Grody. That casual
conversation laid the seed for a film-themed cruise, Sea You at the
Connections also came
into play. Fugazy President Yvonne Boice, who sits on the board of
Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., knows Jonathan Krane, whose
40-plus films include Swordfish, Look Whos Talking Now and Primary
Colors. Krane is the executive director of the Krane Academy of
Motion pictures at the university.
He agreed to film his
latest movie, Dancing on the Edge, with Fugazy clients acting as
extras, with some in speaking roles, onboard the cruise.
An onboard auction,
meanwhile, will raise money for Kranes academy as well as the Palm
Beach International Film Festival.
The five-day cruise
is set for Dec. 1 aboard the Sensation. Fugazy said 300 people have
already booked. Retailers from other agencies wishing to book
clients on the cruise can do so, earning 10% commission.
For Nixon, working
with Fugazy International is a pleasure and productive. The key is
working together to build new business, she said.
Working with an
account like Fugazy, said Nixon, gives her enthusiasm and
excitement in developing new ideas. Im so grateful for their
support and loyalty.
Hand in Hand
highlights successful examples of agents and suppliers working
together. Send suggestions to Covey at [email protected].
Strapping on the
This week, Ill address your
telephone and e-mail questions:
am starting out in the business and I want to get into
commission-based sales. I know there are many ways to do this, but
how do I know Ive selected the right agency?
Create an intern position and work for free for a few weeks to get
the lay of the land. Talk with the sales office handling those
products you think you are mostly likely to sell. Check out the
agencys consortium. Giving out a business card to your
acquaintances from an agency you may not stay with is a
What can I do when a good client finds a better price on one of the
big cruise sites?
This is happening less often because most of the major lines
embrace a level playing field approach. But the ability of Internet
sites to get the word out quickly is a marketers dream. That
problem will not go away.
You attack on two
levels. First, try to sign price-protection agreements. Demand
price protection. Set a policy that requires all competing offers
to be given to you in writing on company stationary. That will
eliminate many problems, as most of the Internet sellers are
unwilling to price-quote in writing.
Reserve space for
your client and show them the hard copy of the cruise lines
invoice. Explain that they are entitled to see the cruise line
confirmation in writing and that any other quote is
Finally, ask if the
quote includes gratuities. If the client says no, then include the
gratuities so you dont lose the sale.
I dont believe you
should ever let a good client walk away with a better price from
Which consortium is the best?
The choice of a consortium is one of the most critical decisions a
business owner will make. The options have changed as often as the
names. What were once commission factories are now sophisticated
marketing organizations. It is this aspect of the competing
organizations that I would examine most carefully. As a member of
one of these organizations, I really dont want to share my bias in
this space. But I would look carefully at the segment of the market
you are going after. That will reduce your choices.
You might encourage
20 or so of your best clients to review marketing materials of your
top two consortium options. You will find this a productive
have been a successful brick-and-mortar agent for the past 11
years. I am now thinking about working out of my home. I would want
to maintain my current volume based on a 40-hour week. Do you think
this is possible?
No. The percentage of clients who want to deal with a home-based
doctor, lawyer and accountant is less then the percentage that
wants to visit face-to-face with a professional consultant in an
office setting. On average, and knowing nothing about your
situation, I assume you would still be successful, but you have to
anticipate losing that percentage of clients seeking a professional
At what point do you think an agent should ask for the deposit?
This is the one part of the sales process that makes me
If asking for a deposit makes you uncomfortable, you might try
government work or something less stressful. Most of the pros I
know have little trouble establishing their worth and asking for
deposits. The classic advice is to ask, Will you be putting your
deposit on a credit card or writing a check?
I dont follow this
advice. I try to refuse deposits when they are offered, and I
suggest that the client think about it overnight. This goes against
industry wisdom, but I feel that the majority of our clients have
had bad experiences with agents at one time or another. They need
to feel that you are on their side.
How do you turn a sales call into something productive? District
sales managers (DSMs) just waste a lot of my time.
The single best thing you can do is build a marketing plan template
designed for your agencys needs. Every sales meeting ought to end
with a contract between you and the supplier for future
cooperation. This contract will force you to think about the
meeting in a what can I do for you, and what can you do for me
owns the vacation planning firm Churchill and Turen in Naperville,
about the Hispanic travel market
Generally, the Hispanic market cant afford vacations. The numbers
dont lie and the opportunity is clear, said Rick Kaplan of WeCan
Partners, a Travel & Hospitality consulting firm in Los
Angeles. Hispanics are this nations largest minority, and in 2004
they controlled $686 billion in spending.
Language is a barrier to success in this market. The facts say
otherwise, said Kaplan. It is of course better to have bilingual
agents and online tools that give Hispanic buyers a choice of
language. In reality, the most significant travel sales potential
exists with second- and third-generation Hispanics, who
predominantly speak English, Kaplan said.
Hispanics do not buy what traditional shoppers purchase. That is
far from the truth, said Kaplan. When you eliminate
first-generation immigrants from the equation, Hispanic buying
habits mirror those of their Anglo contemporaries in every way,
especially when it comes to purchasing specialty products and
Hispanics dont shop online. The reality is that on a per-capita
basis, there are more Hispanic households online than any other
consumer group, and this group also has the largest adoption of
broadband of any market segment, said Kaplan. In fact, Hispanics
are the fastest-growing Internet user group with annual growth
north of 8%, Kaplan said.
Hispanics will not respond to direct mail travel offers. Although
response rates will improve if you are sensitive to creating a
bilingual piece, proper targeting of an English-only piece to
second- and third-generation Hispanics can deliver incredible
results in the direct-mail arena, said Kaplan. Direct-mail offers
to the Hispanic market currently drive significantly higher return
on investment than do comparable pieces to traditional Anglo
buyers. Properly targeted, well-designed direct mail has the
highest recall factor of any marketing medium within the Hispanic
marketing space, Kaplan said.