Nonstop travel talk

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If you've ever wondered how to capitalize on an eclectic background in the travel business, consider what Cerie Segal does.

Cerie Segal, left with Julia Child, discussing travel and food.The Dallas-based travel industry veteran has combined her gift of gab with all that she's learned from gigs as a cruise director (on assorted ships) and a flight attendant (on Pan Am) to form a company called Travel Talk.

That name is a description of what Segal does -- gab about you-know-what on the radio and at other assorted venues.

Segal's most regular gig is host of the Travel Show, the only travel radio program heard in northern Texas, which broadcasts Sundays at 11 a.m. on CBS-owned radio station KRLD.

She also acts as a marketing and sales consultant to travel agents and tour operators in addition to making TV appearances and leading classes and workshops.

All of that talk is meant "to create excitement about travel," said Segal, calling herself "the first line of defense" for the consumer, whom she'll invariably advise to call an agent.

Currently, Segal is waxing most enthusiastic about travel to Asia, which she considers "the destination of the new millennium."

Still, she noted, "people don't understand that the infrastructure is there, that it's not that exotic a destination anymore. I want people to feel more comfortable about travel there, so I keep mentioning it, to put a bug in their ear."

Segal began her broadcast career after her "commute from Dallas" as a flight attendant "started killing me, and I tried to get into doing voice-overs for commercials." She met with the general manager of a local radio station, determined to "volunteer my voice for free." When the manager asked, "What else can you do?" the idea of a travel talk show was born.

Segal's interview subjects have ranged from former Poland President Lech Walesa, to astronauts Wally Schirra and Alan Bean, to the mayor of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Then there was her interview with TV anchorman Tom Brokaw on the pleasure and perils of traveling while gathering news. "I was still working on Pan Am, and he was a passenger. I wasn't about to miss this chance, so I asked him if I could interview him, and he said sure. So we went back to the first-class toilets" for privacy. "It was really a kick," said Segal.

Radio days

Radio is a "terrific [advertising] medium for agents," said Cerie Segal. Segal should know -- she hosts a weekly travel radio show in northern Texas in addition to broadcasting a 90-second travel tip that runs on 130 stations around the country each week (a tip to which local agents frequently tag on their own ad message).

Also a Dallas-based industry consultant, Segal provided the following suggestions on putting together a radio ad campaign:

  • Use the medium's timeliness to your advantage. A broadcast message is the ideal way to promote last-minute deals, said Segal. "You can get a fax on a special sailing and be on the air that same day" -- a tactic that doesn't have to cost a fortune, since "you don't have to buy a long-term contract."
  • Target your audience precisely -- it's easy to do, as most stations are geared to a certain demographic. If you're promoting a family product or a cruise, it should be easy to find the right station to advertise on. Whatever station you're considering should have statistics prepared on exactly who their listeners are.
  • Add your personal touch to the radio spot. You might want to go with a professional writer, as "many agents don't know how to write radio copy," said Segal.
  • But when it comes to reading the spot, consider doing it yourself -- or having an employee with an upbeat voice read it -- a good way to expand your visibility as well as give listeners a warm, friendly feeling about your services.

  • Take advantage of radio's cost-effectiveness. If you're in a small town, a radio spot can be cheaper than a print ad; if you're targeting a specific market, radio ads can be effective enough to be worth an even larger investment.
  • Surprise your clients at the airport

    This week, I want to suggest a strategy that may seem, I admit, off the wall. But it's far enough off the wall to make your agency stand out.

    Most of your leisure clients depart on Friday evening or Saturday morning. So I'd like you to find a part-timer to meet your clients at the airport with a special departure gift.

    Richard Turen.Your agency's greeter or airport concierge should be a trained agent capable of helping your departing clients with their seating and other matters.

    Greeters can escort clients to the airport VIP lounge, present a specially wrapped gourmet basket for the plane ride, or maybe a selection of magazines. The point is that you care enough to see your clients off personally.

    Don't advertise this service, and start out by offering it during busy travel periods on a trial basis. Sit back and imagine how often clients are going to mention your generosity to those they meet during their vacation as well as to friends back home.

    Do be certain that your greeter does not shave his head and wear an orange robe. Those are different "greeters."

    Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency president. Contact him at [email protected].

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