Fritschi has seen propeller planes give way to jets and
transatlantic steamships morph into leisure cruise ships. But for
Chicago-based Rex Travel, one thing has remained a constant: What
clients buy is superlative service -- something Fritschi has hung
his hat on all these years.
Fritschi, who began
his career at Londons Swiss Federal Railways Office in 1948, has
stuck to the same sales philosophy since opening Rex Travel in
1968. Right from Day 1, I focused on upscale leisure travel.
Period. he said.
Rex Travels focus,
which produces an annual sales volume of about $6 million, has
always been the bottom line. It was never Fritschis intent to build
Rex into a mega agency. I could have become a big bombshell, he
said. Profitability is what I look at.
Three years ago,
Fritschi sold Rex Travel to his management team and now serves as a
consultant with a Web site at www.rexclass.com. He works as an outside agent
for the agency.
Over the years,
Fritschi has built his business by building relationships with
clients. People like going to their own dentist. If hes on
vacation, you wait until hes back, he said. Such is also the case
with Rex Travel, which now serves a third generation of clients.
The nice thing about upscale leisure is the client has faith in
you, Fritschi said.
In addition to
offering top-of-the-line service and product offerings, Fritschi
has always made a concerted effort to stay several steps ahead of
industry trends. For instance, he said he saw the writing on the
wall long before the first round of airline commission cuts hit in
1995. I could see there was no future in air, he said, and instead
focused his sales efforts completely on vacations.
In Fritschis view,
the 21st-century threat to travel agents is the Internet. What it
boils down to is that even little old ladies can go to their PCs,
and if they know what they want they can book everything
has found a way to capitalize on the Internet. I was talking to a
client in Greenwich, Conn., who was going to visit some friends
down in the Florida Keys, he said. I told her that she had to have
lunch at Little Palm Island.
While Fritschi was
describing Little Palm Island, a tiny gumdrop of an island located
four miles offshore of Little Torch Key, he had the woman log on to
the site to check it out for herself, thus using it as a visual
In all his years as a
travel consultant, Fritschi believes the thing thats changed the
most is the fact that the American public has become increasingly
knowledgeable. In the late 1930s and 1940s, he said, during the
time of transatlantic steamships such as the Queen Elizabeth,
travelers would take grand tours of Europe using the ship as
transportation. Now people hop over to Europe for a wedding or a
cocktail party, said Fritschi.
agents word is no longer sacrosanct. In the past, clients would
generally take our word for everything. Those days are over, he
said. Even if they havent been to Morocco they go online and do
their research. They find out everything about Morocco. Youve got
to stay ahead of them.
The operative word
for retailers who succeed in the future will be consultant, a
professional who offers expert, unbiased advice to travelers -- and
charges fees for those services, said Fritschi. If I send my
attorney a four-page document to look at, he phones me, gives me
some pointers and sends me a bill for $400.
Those agents who act
as consultants will continue to thrive, he said. It is consultants
who will make a buck and be successful. No Internet can
convincingly tell people what to do. It still doesnt tell you which
ship you belong on.
considered, Fritschis years of success have put him in a position
to turn down business that isnt lucrative. But it wasnt always that
way. Fritschi started his career with very little. I came over from
London on the Queen Mary, the fare was $160, and I was in steerage
with four men to a room in two upper s and lowers, no air
conditioning and toilets and bathrooms down the hall.
Those days are a
thing of the past. When new clients call from around the country, I
tell them my fee, said Fritschi. If they balk I say, Goodbye, go
wants to hear your story. Think youre a good candidate for an
upcoming Agent Life? Contact Claudette Covey at [email protected], and please include your
agency name, agency location, telephone number and e-mail
A romantic stay
in Bora Bora
Cheryl Floyd, a honeymoon and romance
vacation expert at All Seasons Travel in Birmingham, Ala., designed
this five-night itinerary to Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Floyd
celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary on the island and is quick
to recommend it to her clients.
Guests stay at
the Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa. For maximum romance, book clients
in a horizon, over-water bungalow suite, said Floyd. The propertys
120 luxury suites are located on 16 acres of verdant, terraced
hillside and on the water of a protected cove. In the morning, a
driver picks up clients in a four-wheel-drive vehicle and
transports them to the highest point on the island for panoramic
views of neighboring islands. On the way back to the hotel,
travelers can shop for Tahitian black pearls. They dine at the
hotels Iriatai Panoramic Restaurant.
A helicopter tour of
the island takes travelers over reefs, valleys and waterfalls and
around the islands highest peak. From this vantage point, you
understand why Bora Bora is called the Pearl of the Pacific, said
Floyd. The site for dinner is La Villa Mahana, where food is truly
an art form, said Floyd, adding that with only six tables,
reservations are must.
Travelers spend the
day aboard the catamaran Taravana. Captain Richard Postma will
customize your cruise to include snorkeling, sport fishing, sailing
and a visit to the heart-shaped atoll of Tupai, said Floyd. After a
picnic lunch, travelers can watch the sunset before returning to
the hotel for a romantic room service meal.
Clients travel to a
private motu by motorized outrigger canoe, which is equipped with
snorkeling gear, to explore Bora Boras lagoon. The Tahitian guide
will call the sharks and stingrays for you to hand feed, said
Floyd. For lunch, the guide prepares a five-course, gourmet lunch.
Dinner is at the hotels beachside Tamure Grill for a luau and
clients start the day with breakfast delivered by canoe to their
bungalow. She suggests they visit the resorts Mandara Spa for the
Bora Bora Indulgence package. The site for dinner is Bloody Marys,
where the local catch is displayed on ice. Just be sure to call a
couple of days in advance for a reservation, said Floyd.
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].
Claire Schoeder has long believed that
personal contact with hotel staff makes the booking process
seamless and better ensures that the clients trip will come off
without a hitch. Personal contact, in fact, is one reason why
Schoeder, an agent at Century Travel in Atlanta whose specialty is
the U.K., books the Goring in London.
I think personal
contact eliminates a great deal of misunderstanding, said Schoeder,
adding that she talks to three of the hotels concierges regularly
as well as the managing director, general manager and
front-of-house manager. Ive got some ornery clients, and they have
yet to complain about anything at the Goring.
Schoeder, who rarely
books hotels she hasnt inspected, met the Gorings managing
director, William Cowpe, at a trade show in Atlanta. Id never heard
of the Goring, and it looked like something I wanted to
When Schoeder next
traveled to the U.K., she met with Cowpe and fell in the love with
Cowpe was impressed
Claire Schoeder is a
perfect example of an agent who will ensure that her clients
receive only the very best wherever they travel in the world, and
she achieves this with her personal relationships with hotels like
the Goring, he said.
Cowpe said special
requests are almost always met. If, for instance, guests prefer
duvets rather than sheets and blankets, they get them. If they dont
like feather pillows, they find foam pillows in their
In Cowpes view,
travel agents will continue to play an important role in consumers
The Internet is a
useful tool, but it doesnt answer all the questions, he said. When
Claire recommends the Goring, she can talk about the hotel from
Schoeder said the
Goring has never failed to please her clients. They feel like
theyre treated as valued family members, she said.
Hand in Hand
highlights successful examples of agents and suppliers working
together. Send suggestions to Covey at[email protected].
A person goes through a series of
steps when deciding to purchase an expensive product like travel.
Marketing professor Philip Kotler calls them the Buyer Readiness
Stages. And the decision-making begins long before the client
The buyers thinking
varies considerably from one step to the next. Thats why you should
tailor your advertising to their decision-making
Here are the six
stages of buyer readiness, and how you can best approach each
- Awareness. Before you can sell, you must
make contact with those who want to purchase. Your agency should
create advertising and promotional programs thatll make your name
conspicuous and will attract serious buyers.
- Knowledge. Once prospective clients know
your name, they begin the process of acquiring knowledge about what
you can offer. Therefore, your advertising efforts should establish
you as an expert -- perhaps even a specialist in one or more niche
- Liking. We all tend to buy from people or
companies we feel positive about. Entertaining ads, for example,
will convey warmth and the humanity of your agency. Direct your
creative efforts toward making your agency seem joyful, inviting
- Preference. Benefits statements are the key
to making prospective clients prefer your agency over
another. Provide target customers with
reasons to do business with you.
- Conviction. Your advertising should build
the customers certainty that youre the agency to call first. Client
testimonials, for example, provide just the right reinforcement for
the preference youve created.
- Purchase. Once prospective clients have
decided to seek you out, expert sales skills are critical to
helping them make the right purchase.
And following through
on your promises is essential to keeping their loyalty and repeat
Marc Mancini is
an industry speaker and consultant who teaches at West Los Angeles
Setting up an
agency at home
Identify yourself as a commissionable entity to the supplier
community. Travel agents who are creating home-based travel
agencies must find secure appointments or accreditations to provide
the agency with legitimacy, said Gary Fee, president of the Outside
Sales Support Network (OSSN) in Jupiter, Fla. Today there are more
non-ARC agencies in the marketplace than ARC appointed agencies,
said Fee. Suppliers want to identify who these sellers of travel
Travel suppliers are
now relying on data from IATA for sellers of travel that hold a
Travel Sales Intermediary endorsement or from the OSSN, which
administers the TRUE Code program and is maintained by IATA. CLIA
codes also are used by suppliers to help identify sellers of
IATA-based coding programs have more qualifying criteria for a
seller of travel to secure such codes, Fee said. The majority of
all industry suppliers now require these industry codes to put into
their reservation systems for ID purposes and to provide the
supplier with a qualified seller of travel.
Obtain the appropriate business licensing and permits. These
permits, noted Fee, could be city, county, state or association
permits. Theres nothing worse than getting set up and getting a
cease and desist order, he said. Ive seen it happen.
Create a strong sales and marketing plan. Its like building a
house, said Fee. If you dont have a blueprint you dont know where
youre going. A sales and marketing plan, he added, is a road map
for success, outlining how you are going to proceed in business.
You have to have a plan, said Fee.
4.Install the proper technology in your home
office. Make sure you have cable or digital subscriber line (DSL),
voice mail and fax or e-fax, said Fee. Its important to stay
connected because we have to communicate on an ongoing basis with
suppliers and clients. In todays world, technology is
Obtain errors and omissions and general liability insurance