Broadcast news

Quite a few agents also do travel radio shows -- but Stephen Pickford's may be the one heard in the most places.

Broadcast from Montreal, "Travel World Radio Show" airs on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon EST in various U.S. and Canadian cities on the affiliated stations of the Liberty Works Radio Network (based in Westminster, Md.) and is available around the world on the Internet using Real Audio.

Stephen Pickford, right, and William Bagghus as seen on the Web site www.libertyworksradio.com. Pickford, who is director of marketing for the Zagury Travel Group, a corporate travel agency located in Dollard, Quebec (a suburb of Montreal), said that the show's high profile (it is the highest-rated locally produced, English-language program in its time slot) "gives us instant credibility with clients and makes them feel confident to refer us" to their friends.

As for the content of the show, "we try to create the atmosphere of buddies sitting around the kitchen table talking about their latest travel adventures," said Pickford.

His co-host, Willem Bagghus, "has been referred to as the Howard Stern of travel," said Pickford.

Bagghus, who writes a travel column in a local paper, "keeps the program moving on a lighter tone" -- especially welcome, said Pickford, "when we get too tied-down talking in industry jargon." Also adding to the down-to-earth tone is a "returning cast of characters for the audience to identify with" -- regular correspondents who report on various specialties such as family travel.

Pickford does shows on "a variety of destinations" to appeal to both the East and West coasts, including "a lot of drive destinations," he said.

He also focuses on industry events such as new routes; often profiles companies, such as start-up carriers, and discusses issues affecting the business traveler, such as net fares.

Among Pickford's most memorable guests is former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who "spent a good 45 minutes with us talking about everything under the sun, like nude beaches in Southern California." Campbell, who said she had gained weight and "sometimes felt like she was carrying around a 30-pound ham in her behind," declined to tell Pickford whether she had actually bared all on those beaches.

Radio primer

In his 10-year travel-broadcasting career, Stephen Pickford has done cable TV and he has done radio -- and he much prefers the latter.

Why? The medium is "a lot more fun, easier to do and more interactive," he said.

Pickford, who has been co-host of Montreal-based "Travel World Radio Show" for several years, also is happy with radio's flexibility. "You can talk to guests anywhere; they can be sitting in the bathtub."

Stephen Pickford is listed on www.travelmedia.ca, the Travel Media Association of Canada's site. Also director of marketing at Dollard, Quebec-based Zagury Travel Group, Pickford provided tips for other agents who are thinking of developing their own travel shows:

  • Make your topics varied and "accessible -- not always about the most exotic travel," he said. Most listeners prefer to hear about "affordable trips they can relate to."
  • Always have a long list of questions to ask your interview subjects, so you don't run out of things to talk about.
  • It's "good not to be a solo act, have someone else there to talk to and ad-lib with," he said.
  • The ideal partner is "someone with entertainment background, or a Joe Average" to provide the nontravel industry point of view.

  • When you're looking at a radio station to hook up with, consider its demographics; you want the one whose listeners are closest to your client base, not necessarily the highest-rated one.
  • Sales-cost formula

    How can I figure what it costs to process a sale?

    To get a truly accurate picture of your costs, you'll need the help of a qualified accountant. However, the following formula will get you in the ballpark.

    Dan McManus.First, add up the annual expenses of running your operation. Divide the total by the number of full-time salespeople, then divide that number by 2,000 -- the approximate number of hours each agent works per year.

    For example, if your expenses are $100,000 and you have two full-time salespeople, your operating cost per person is $50,000. Your cost per "sales hour" is $25.

    Next, determine how long it takes to handle a transaction. For an average transaction, consider the time required for the initial consultation as well as for handling changes and refunds and sending out documentation. If the transaction takes about 30 minutes and your cost per sales hour is $25, then processing a typical order costs you $12.50. (These are hypothetical numbers, of course.)

    I don't always have time to explain office policies to my staff -- is this really necessary?

    During busy times, you will be tempted to simply dictate instructions and orders to your staff without explaining why you do things a certain way. Don't.

    Without some rationale behind the policy, employees are more likely to repeat the same mistake that inspired company policy to begin with. Take the time to give your staff specific examples of problems you've handled by deciding on specific company policies -- for example, mistakes that were averted after the last fare sale. Once your staff is able to see the big picture, they can buy in to the solution with better understanding.

    Former agency owner Dan McManus is the publisher of the newsletter The Successful Worldspan Agent. Contact him at [email protected].

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