Agent builds solid honeymoon niche

ayle Naugler said about her Cacique International Travel Agent 2001 award received Feb. 5 in Nassau, Bahamas: "I had no idea I'd be the only winner."

The awards, divided by category, are given annually by the Bahamas ministry of tourism to individuals and organizations deemed to have made a positive impact on Bahamian tourism.

Categories, which number in the dozens, include everything from hotelier and chef to airline and tour operator of the year.

Naugler was presented her Cacique International Travel Agent 2001 award on Feb. 5 at the Nassau Marriott Resort in the Bahamas. Above, a view from the hotel's grounds. Expecting the travel agent category to be broken up into geographical segments, Naugler was stunned to find that she stood alone representing her industry.

How did one travel agent from Travelfaire in Dunwoody, Ga., attract enough business to be so honored? Although hard work and extra service played a role, she is the first to admit that her career choices also paved the way for her success.

Naugler, who started out as a general, do-everything agent, has narrowed her focus to weddings and honeymoons -- a niche she describes as surprisingly lucrative.

"No matter how many times a person has been married, he or she always wants to go on a honeymoon vacation," she said.

Noting that the key to selling honeymoons is matching the client to the product, she said: "We work hard to find out what the bride and groom are looking for, while recognizing that budget is a deciding factor.

"The average consumer has big ideas but doesn't have a clue about price until he or she sees it on paper," Naugler said, adding that many honeymooners are just starting out in their careers and may have just bought homes.

Although cruises can be a good value, particularly as the couple can visit several destinations for one price, Naugler said the inclusives have the advantage of offering free alcohol, gratuities and activities. "Our clients like knowing what everything is going to cost them upfront before they leave home," she said.

But not every honeymooner is looking to save a buck, Naugler said. "Some clients will pay $10,000 for a week in a luxury category room with an ocean view and won't settle for less.

"It amazes us that they have probably taken every dime they can get their hands on to do this, which means we might not hear from them for several years," she said.

But although it may take a while for clients to recoup enough financially from a honeymoon to purchase another vacation, Naugler said it does happen eventually, leading to a healthy anniversary business.

Nor is her business restricted to locals, she said.

"I'm working with wedding parties from New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia, all by word of mouth and referrals," she said.

When it comes down to it, Naugler added that service is all she has to sell.

-- Felicity Long

Bahamas recognizes sales success

ayle Naugler may be good at selling weddings and honeymoons, but how did she attract the attention of the Bahamas ministry of tourism?

"Our top two destinations are the Bahamas and Jamaica, and we also do a little Cancun," Naugler said.

"For 2001 so far, I have seven weddings planned in Nassau and two in Jamaica between now and July," she said.

If seven weddings doesn't sound like a lot, keep in mind that Naugler doesn't just handle travel for the bride and groom but for the whole wedding party.

"These are large groups of people," she said, adding that the guests pay for their own air and packages.

Travelfaire's Web site.Acknowledging that some guests initially balk at the idea of spending so much money to participate in someone else's wedding, Naugler said the key is to get them to realize that this is their vacation, too.

Also, because Naugler is working with group bookings, she is able to negotiate better rates for her clients.

Naugler's success as a travel agent is especially gratifying given it is not her first career.

An accountant for 22 years, she went on to attend travel school, graduating in 1990. "They did an excellent job, teaching me not just ticketing, but how to do packaging," she said.

Naugler began in an agency in which the employees handled both leisure and corporate clients, then began to specialize in leisure, joining Travelfaire in Dunwoody, Ga., six years ago.

"Basically, we handled whoever was on the phone," she said of her initial experiences.

"If you can't do cars, hotels and air, you can't do the rest of it," Naugler said.

Her evolution into a wedding and honeymoon specialist focusing on the Bahamas came about gradually, picking up in the last two years, she said, adding: "One thing just led to another."

A good pick

any of the self-help books I have read over the years have one or two wonderful nuggets of advice buried in their pages. But the common threads that made these books so enjoyable were humor and situations applicable to daily life.

For example, Mike Marchev's "Become the Exception" is a book that will inspire, instruct, motivate and occasionally make you laugh.

Lucy Hirleman.Mike is a familiar face in the industry, and if you have heard him speak or attended one of his seminars, you actually can hear his voice throughout the book.

With 30-plus years of experience in today's business environment, Mike presents extraordinary opportunities in his own unique, and often humorous, style. He has the ability to instill adventure and urgency while providing all the tools, systems and attitudes that small-business owners need to achieve success.

In the beginning of the book, Mike presents "four threshold myths" and then proceeds to shatter them one by one. My favorite, No, 2, is that "you must like people." He goes on to say, "Many people preach that a primary prerequisite to be successful in sales is that you must like people. The implication is that you should have the innate capacity and desire to cozy up to just about anybody with a bankroll in their wallet. I am not a fan of that postulate."

He then goes on to tell you about the "nasty, insincere and negative" people in the world and why you should have nothing to do with them, but don't "prematurely cross them off simply because they have a bad hair day."

Lucy Hirleman, CTC, MCC, owns Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, N.J. Contact her at [email protected]; fax: (973) 208-1204.

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