Getting home-based in Sedona

udi Bloomfield's varied, 23-year industry background was what helped her launch her home-based business -- JB's Travel Partners -- four years ago in Sedona, Ariz.

She got her start in the late 1970s as a stewardess, then as an airline sales representative. Her next job was in the hospitality industry in Illinois. Then she worked as a sales manager for the Rochester Convention Bureau in Minnesota, which is where she started working closely with travel agents.

Bloomfield."It was really interesting and challenging to help the agents. I worked to create itineraries as well as put together groups coming into the city for tours," said Bloomfield.

"But the hardest part was trying to satisfy client needs," she continued. "It's a very good feeling for me to fulfill [their needs] for them."

Maybe this is why her motto is "Let me help you make your travel dreams come true."

She also likes to think of her clients as friends, albeit on a business level, and strives to establish lasting relationships with them.

"The most challenging aspect of my job now is being home-based even though I am affiliated with a host agency in Rochester, Minn., Horizon Travel & Cruises," Bloomfield said. "If I need to find out something, I have to do the research myself to get the answers. There's no one here to ask for advice."

Judi Bloomfield, far right, leads a group through Red Rock country in Sedona, Arizona. But she said the Internet has been very helpful to her business because it puts all the information she needs at her disposal.

E-mail also has proven to be an extremely helpful communications tool for her.

"In fact, e-mail has helped me to have access to clients all over the country, some in South America and even India," Bloomfield said. She added that she plans to have a company Web site up by the end of the month.

Although Bloomfield raves about the impact e-mail has had on her business, she usually conducts travel sales over the phone because she doesn't want to lose her personal touch.

"I really place customer service as a priority and believe in getting back to clients as soon as possible," added Bloomfield, who is very involved in the local chamber of commerce and in community activities. She also serves as president of the Northern Arizona chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

-- Michele SanFilippo

Selling your backyard

ome-based agency owner Judi Bloomfield started selling travel to her newly adopted state of Arizona strictly by coincidence.

"Back at the ASTA World Travel Congress in Las Vegas last fall, I was networking with other agents around the country who started talking about how they loved the Sedona area so much and how they wanted to be able to send groups out here," Bloomfield said.

A typical view of the Red Rocks in Arizona as seen from the home office of Judi Bloomfield. Then agents started asking her if she would be able to assist in coming up with itineraries, and one thing led to another.

She ended up getting a client or two out of these discussions, and then came up with the idea to combine her full-service business with selling her own backyard, where she knows all of the attractions and operators very well.

The rest is history. Since then, Bloomfield has led three group tours of Sedona with six more on the way.

"Now I'm getting at least a call a day from local tour operators who are interested in working with me," she said. "I have such a love for this area that to be able to share this with others helps make it so worthwhile." Those who would like her help can call (800) 779-7513.

Bloomfield said she has doubled her business and client base since first opening because she isn't afraid to ask for sales. But she said she would like to increasingly concentrate on inbound tours to Arizona.

Bloomfield said that as she continues to increase her business and grow her client roster, she would like to get more involved in the adventure side of the business both domestically and abroad. She even has tour operator associates who organize outdoor adventures to places like Colorado, Australia and New Zealand.

But her biggest motivation is the fact that it's easy to sell what you know and love, especially in your own backyard.

Distinguished clients

ne of the great challenges in selling cruises is to understand how each line differs from the other. Sometimes there are even major differences within a cruise line brand. So here are a few shortcuts that can help you along with most cruise lines.

  • The shorter the cruise, the more likely passengers will: be younger, have a more limited budget, be more concerned about on-board activities, wish to "sample" cruising for the first time, and see the cruise as a quick getaway, rather than as their annual vacation.
  • Marc Mancini.

  • The longer the cruise, the more likely passengers will: be older, wealthier veteran cruisers; consider the ports a critical feature; be concerned about stateroom space; take it as their annual vacation, and be open to pre- or post-cruise stays.
  • The more expensive the cruise is, the more likely it will: focus on learning enrichment, gourmet cuisine and soft, cultural adventure; have more unstructured activities and low-key entertainment; attract older, more experienced travelers; use a midsize or small vessel, with larger staterooms and few (if any) inside staterooms and an understated ambience; provide astonishing levels of service, sometimes without tipping, and mix less-known ports with more traditional ones and longer itineraries.
  • The more value-oriented the cruise is, the more likely it will: attract younger passengers, families and seniors on a budget; visit mass-market ports; use megaships; provide a huge assortment of activities; stress a party-like atmosphere and casual on-board style, and have many small, extra costs.
  • Consider the above as only generalized guidelines. Plenty of exceptions exist.

    That's why specific product knowledge -- from brochures, reps, ship inspections and actual sailings -- are essential to refine your counseling skills.

    Marc Mancini is a professor of travel at West Los Angeles College.

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