So you got the name of a possible client from a supplier. Just how
do you follow up?
There's a definite art to
follow-up, according to three travel agents who won a sales contest
sponsored by the Caribbean Coalition for Tourism. The winning
agents made combined sales of more than $110,000 in bookings to the
Caribbean from leads generated by a CCT advertising campaign. They
each won a trip to the Caribbean Tourism Organization Ball in
Contest winner Melrose John, chief executive officer of Jo-Mel
Elite Travel in Queens, N.Y., gave these tips:Contact a lead as soon as possible -- within 48 hours of the
inquiry.Keep a database of the leads and note what was discussed during
each conversation.During the first contact, qualify what leads are looking for.
Don't try to book but do give information and advice.
John's tactics paid off big. One of her leads booked a
first-time cruise along with 45 co-workers -- a $70,000 sale.
Christine DeFilippo, senior travel consultant with Walter's
Travel in Floral Park, N.Y., said many of the leads requested that
they not be contacted by phone or e-mail. So she tapped her
creative problem-solving skills, using her computer graphics
background to design mailings tailored to the vacation interests
the sales prospects had indicated. For instance, DeFilippo gave a
gambling theme to the mailing she sent to the lead who was
interested in gambling. "I also got more leads from the leads
themselves, including a bridal party I booked at Beaches Turks and
Caicos," she said.
Vicki Stone, a travel consultant with TravelPort of Plano,
Texas, said her leads "either were not home or felt intruded upon
when we called them, so we sent them mailers instead."
How About Those Tour Operators?
American Airlines Vacations recently raised commissions for
those who book through the CRS and eliminated agent pay for certain
destinations reserved over the phone. In light of these moves, we
asked agents to sound off on the topic of tour operators and
"On-line CRS bookings seem the wave of the future, but I do like
interacting with a person sometimes. Who has time to look through
all the descriptions of bedding configurations, so you don't send a
family of five to Orlando to stay in a room with two double beds?
Some tour operators do have very knowledgeable res agents, and we'd
hate to give that up. It also annoys me to look at a tour
operator's Web site if the operator is taking direct bookings over
the Net. What we look for are true agent-loyal companies that allow
you to link back to your own Web site."
Touraine Travel and Tours
"Booking tour operators over the CRS is the more efficient way
to do things -- except for one problem. With many companies, once
you end the reservation in the tour area, you can't bring the res
information with you into the main CRS area to build a booking
record without going back into the system and putting in a bunch of
passive segments. Sometimes I have to ask them to fax the
information, which can take up to 10 hours and brings us back to [a
paper environment], too."
A&S Travel Center
"I would love it if all tour companies with Web sites had travel
agent areas on their sites."
Call it Puppy Love
By Marilee Crocker
Julie Costas calls the time last December when her Youngstown,
Ohio, agency hosted Lassie for a round of community visits one of
the best days of her life. It was, she said, "a day beyond belief,"
both for her and for the many seriously ill and disabled children
who got to meet the canine screen star.
Lassie's visit was suggested by a Universal Studios of Florida
sales rep, who was the featured speaker at a travel night the
agency was hosting at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. It was
Costas' idea to take the lovable pup by limousine to visit young
fans at two nearby children's hospitals and an Easter Seals
Thanks to Costas' advance media relations work, Lassie's visit
netted her agency (Carlson Wagonlit Travel VT) stories in two local
newspapers and coverage by three local TV stations. The travel
night at Barnes & Noble attracted more than 500 people and
generated travel sales, as well. But Costas, who handles marketing
for the agency, values Lassie's visit most for the community
goodwill it generated. "Sometimes you have to look not at what your
sales are going to be but [at the fact] that you are doing
something good for your community," she said.
This is a new section of PlanetOut, an on-line service for gay and
lesbian travelers. It includes profiles of more than 80 domestic
and international destinations, including gay-friendly resources; a
worldwide calendar of gay and lesbian events, and feature stories.
Point your Web browser to: www.planetout.com/pno/travel/
Holbrook, a Gainesville, Fla.-based specialist in ecotourism and
history tours, provides a trip catalog, detailed country
information, picture galleries and personal commentaries plus a
list of professional affiliations and a letter from the owner,
David Holbrook. There also is an on-line order form for agents who
want to book a Holbrook tour for clients. Go to: www.holbrooktravel.com
This year, Mardi Gras was celebrated not only in New Orleans but
in a travel agency in Monroeville, Pa. At AC Tours/ABC Travel, the
staff competed in a mask contest and cooked up a feast of red beans
and rice and bread pudding with whiskey sauce, a recipe a staffer
brought back from the New Orleans School of Cooking. For making
their masks, "the rules were simple," said Cathy Dernorsek, the
agency's operations manager. Staffers were told, "Don't go out and
buy your decorations; make them from whatever you have at home,
such as buttons, bows, feathers and lace." The results, as shown at
left, were impressive.
The Perfect Hosts
Why is the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents
(Nacta), the Valley Center, Calif.-based group for independent
contractors and outside agents, developing membership criteria for
host agencies that want to join?
Because the association has been receiving hundreds of requests
from outside agents looking for good host agencies, said Nacta
president Joanie Ogg. "This will assist us in offering our members
a listing of hosts that have met specific standards," she noted.
Ogg said she will personally review the applicants and will not
hesitate to refuse membership to agencies that don't meet the
requirements, which include having at least $1 million in
errors-and-omissions insurance. Nacta also plans to announce a
comprehensive program that will help small agencies recruit
independent agents in their market area.