Tyler Peaks father taught him a lesson that
has yet to fail him. My father taught me to treat a customer the
way you want to be treated, he said of Jack Peak, who founded Jack
Peak Travel in 1962. He taught me that if theres ever a problem,
the agency would always make right.
Tyler Peak, who
reopened the San Jose, Calif.-based agency as Peak Travel in 1996,
charges his employees to exceed the customers
Ive always believed
that the relationship side of the business is the most important,
Peak, who met his
wife, Kim, at Jack Peak Travel, assumed ownership of his fathers
agency in 1982, and in July 1990 sold the company to US Travel
Systems, where he remained under contract for nearly five
I sold the company in
order to achieve financial security but ultimately found than an
even greater benefit was the experience of working for a large
company and the exposure that gave me to many remarkably talented
individuals, Peak said.
Peak said he learned
innumerable valuable lessons about the travel agency business under
the tutelage of US Travel. They always believed in the value of
training for its management staff, said Peak, adding that sales,
account management and personnel retention were recurring
The company also
enabled Peak to discover how quickly a company could react to
change and embrace that change rather than resisting it, he said.
This lesson has been of incredible value in the last several years
when dealing with our changing industry, fees, consolidation and
After a yearlong
hiatus from the business -- a time when Peak relaxed and played
golf -- he decided to get back into the business by opening an
incarnation of Jack Peak Travel, which he named Peak
It was at this time
that Peaks credo -- treat people well, be they customers or
employee -- paid off.
I pictured a travel
company that would prosper by primarily focusing on the leisure
product, he said. What I discovered was many of the agents and
associates that I had worked with in my previous lives sought me
out and wanted to join me in this new company.
Many of these folks
were heavily involved in the corporate side of the business and
ultimately brought their relationships with customers to
Today, the agency is
about 60% corporate and 40% leisure and has 265 corporate
customers, ranging from four people who travel twice a year to $3
We are high-tech,
high-touch, Peak said. We have really good agents to back up the
On the leisure side,
the agency sells a great deal of Hawaii, Mexico and cruises. Peak
is a firm believer in education and recently returned from a
familiarization trip to Hawaii with 30 of his leisure
These sorts of trips
serve two purposes, Peak said. First, the agents learn about the
destination, and second, they enable Peak to cement relationships
Also, because Peak
Travel has acquired, merged or otherwise joined forces with 12
agencies since 1996, the fam trips are an excellent way to meet
some of the counselors from travel agencies that have joined Peak
In the end, the
agencies that will prevail will be those that nurture relationships
The large online
agencies will continue to thrive, Peak said, but he has found that
his agency retains its clientele through the high-touch, high-tech
Peak said his
daughter, who recently graduated from college, has expressed an
interest in working for the travel agency. Peak said that would
delight him -- after she gets her feet wet in another
She is doing just
that, and is now working for a hotel company.
Although Peak has
clearly made good on his own, he nonetheless wants to ensure that
his daughter is fully aware of her own abilities.
Its a risk you take
to do the right thing for your kids, he said. Shell be more
valuable to me by earning her stripes.
To contact Agent
Life reporter Claudette Covey, send e-mail[email protected].
Mills, a counselor at All-Travel in Los Angeles, created an
Australia itinerary that incorporates wineries and wildlife. The
itinerary, which is a portion of a longer vacation, was designed to
enable travelers to make sightseeing and dining options
Theres such a thing
as planning and such a thing as overplanning, Mills said. People
need to leave themselves open to enjoy the spontaneity that theyre
so unaccustomed to in their everyday lives.
Travelers journey by
four-wheel-drive to the Barossa Valley, Australias premier
wine-producing region, to visit wineries and sample gourmet
cuisine. They then travel to the Clare Valley to spend a night at a
sheep station and enjoy a country dinner with local
Clients explore the
mining town of Burra before heading out to the Murray River
wetlands for views of the river. They return to Adelaide in the
late afternoon and check into one of a rich array of hotels and
bed-and-breakfasts there. If they have extra time, travelers can
visit the National Wine Centre of Australia and the National
Aboriginal Cultural Institute.
Early in the morning,
travelers fly to Kangaroo Island (shown above), where they meet
their guide, who takes them on a tour to spot kangaroos, koalas and
a variety of birds. At Seal Bay, they can walk among the sea lions.
Lunch is a picnic in a bush setting. They can choose among a number
of island hotels. That evening, travelers can dine at a local
restaurant to sample such local seafood specialties as King George
whiting and marron (a freshwater crayfish).
Clients travel to
Flinders Chase National Park, where they will visit the New Zealand
fur seal colony, explore the formations of Admirals Arch and
Remarkable Rocks and visit the Cape du Couedic lighthouse. At the
Hanson Bay Sanctuary, theyll have the chance to spot koalas before
continuing to Kelly Hill Conservation Park to watch kangaroos graze
on the open plains.
Travelers tour the
eastern part of the island to visit Frenchmans Rock, where a French
sailor etched details of the visit on one of the basalt rocks. They
can also take a tour of the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse and stop at
Itinerary is an example of an itinerary an agent crafted his or
herself, not available anywhere else, but can be duplicated by
other agents to sell to their clients. To send an example of an
itinerary youve customized, e-mail Covey at[email protected].
Hunting for new
biz with a trusted partner
Sometimes agents dont have to look far when
hunting for supplier partners. Sometimes the bounty of the hunt can
be found in their proverbial backyard.
Such has been the
experience of Bill and Pam Pietrykowski, who operate Rufe Snow
Travel in Fort Worth, Texas.
The couple recently
decided they wanted to capitalize on a burgeoning market: hunting
and fishing trips.
I arrange what the
client wants to do and book the air, said Pam. Then we put the
client in touch with FTW Outfitters, which qualifies the client on
a hunt that will precisely meet their needs.
Bill met Tim Fallon,
owner of Barksdale, Texas-based FTW Outfitters through unrelated
business ventures years ago. It was Fallon who took Bill on his
first salmon-fishing expedition.
He hunts everywhere,
said Bill of Fallon. I think this is a business people in this area
are ready for.
Fallon, who also owns
the 9,000-acre FTW Ranch in southwest Texas, said that he never
books any operator that he has not visited personally.
We wont book an
outfitter that we havent hunted with as a paying client, Fallon
This ensures that FTW
can operate on a no-strings-attached basis, and not be beholden to
any given outfitter for any reason.
Also, the company
wont book clients who havent been met or referenced through a
friend or business associate.
If we wouldnt want to
spend a week with them, why would we send them to one of our
outfitters? said Fallon.
Rufe Snow Travel is
promoting the FTW Outfitters partnership through print media to let
the community know that were here for people who want big-game
hunting and fishing trips, said Pam.
FTW and Rufe Travel
Snow believe they have honed in on a lucrative, untapped
Theres a market for
these trips and FTW Outfitters is the perfect fit for Rufe Snow
Travel, said Bill.
Hand in Hand
highlights successful examples of agents and suppliers working
together. Send suggestions to Covey at[email protected].
After years of turbulent change
and financial challenges, things are looking better for travel
agents. They have figured out whats worth selling and whats not.
Many of their customers have gone from post-9/11 fears to bolder
The threat of
Internet competition has become less frightening, too. Traditional
agencies boast online presences, while Travelocity, Expedia and
Orbitz hire travel agents, as well as many service people, to guide
online customers in making their more complicated vacation
decisions. And many agents who struggled in a storefront set-up now
thrive as home-based sellers.
But theres a serious
new threat looming: Where can they get the new hires they need for
these good times?
In the last month
alone, Ive received at least a dozen calls from agency managers
desperate to find personnel to help them keep pace with marketplace
How did we get
The reasons are many:
After 9/11, too many agents called it quits. Those that remain are
According to the
Travel Institutes latest survey, nearly half of all front-liners
are over 50 years old. A mere 5% are under 30.
Its hard for agencies
to provide competitive salaries. Moreover, the public seems to
believe that the industry has become so automated that travel is a
dead-end career. We know better.
In a way, though, we
must blame ourselves. Ive heard repeated stories of travel agents
telling young people to forget about a career in travel. That
So what can you do to
find your next agents? Here are three ideas:Look for
career-changers. They have mature skills and are willing
to trade what theyre doing now for a more interesting (if less
lucrative) business, like travel. Prime candidates are teachers,
police officers and health care professionals, as well as anyone
who already sells for a living. The downside: Theyll need
relationship with a travel school. Yes, many have gone out
of business, but others have picked up the slack. (The process
mirrors travel industry consolidation, with fewer but bigger
travel events. Networking with peers might lead you to a
knowledgeable and skilled agent whos unhappy with his or her
current employer and might benefit you. Above all, lets be kinder
to our profession. Its not perfect, but its a lot more satisfying
than many other businesses.
Marc Mancini is
an industry speaker and consultant who teaches at West Los Angeles
Getting the most
out of CRM technology
Understand what CRM (customer relationship management) is. It is a
sum of all planning, development and activities needed to create a
personal relationship with your customers, said Rick Kaplan, a
principal of Marina del Rey, Calif.-based WeCan Partners, a
consulting firm focused on the travel and hospitality industries.
Your customer base is your most valuable asset, and the better you
understand them, the more likely they are to stay and be an ongoing
To grow loyal and profitable relationships with customers, you must
manage the customer experience at every touch point. The process
begins with management and staff creating a high-level CRM plan
that reviews potential customer interaction and creates a plan for
improving customer experience. It is critical to have everyone buy
into the plan, said Kaplan. Everyone must understand the financial
drain of customer defections and the significant benefits of
Start to gather information about your customers, and tell them
they are important, and you appreciate their business. Think less
about demographics and more about psychographics -- their
preferences based on behavior and attitudes. Dont forget to ask
them how they want to be contacted: telephone, direct mail or
e-mail. Make it meaningful and rewarding to do business with you,
Junk mail and spam are the enemy. Use your data to tailor
communications to be relevant and timely. Dont treat all customers
the same. Think about different levels of service for different
5. Create a
central repository for data. Almost all current agency tools
provide CRM capability, said Kaplan. You can turn to companies
outside of travel that specialize is CRM systems, and you even can
build your own tools with off-the-shelf products such as Access. If
you have a program such as Trams Client Base, take the time to
understand its power and the financial rewards it can