It's not every agency that sets up shop in the lobby of a theater
playing a travel-related play or earns extra income from
honeymooners by handling travel arrangements for their out-of-town
But Nina Meyer,
managing director of Carlson Wagonlit/Vision Travel in Coral
Gables, Fla., prides herself on being an "out-of-the-box thinker"
who "does business like an entrepreneur."
"Since the caps came, I have almost doubled my business," she
said. Among the agency's unique marketing tactics is its connection
with the theatrical review "Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should
Know," which has been playing in New York for two years and just
opened in Coral Gables.
Through the play's Coral Gables run until Jan. 2, there will be
an outpost of Carlson Wagonlit/Vision Travel -- complete with a
functioning computer -- in the main lobby of the theater housing
the show. The mini-agency will be manned preshow and through
Meyer is hoping that the review's lighthearted look at travel
will inspire play-goers to try the real thing. Certainly the tactic
"targets the right type of people," said Meyer. "People who go to
the theater are more affluent."
Meyer is also a big advocate of handling travel arrangements for
weddings, bar mitzvahs and family reunions, events she looks at as
"turning a single item into multiples." The agency will block
discounted hotel space and air tickets for groups attending catered
events and rent a bus to transport them to different venues.
Meyers will ask clients, "Wouldn't it help if we put a card in
with your wedding invitations?" The card contains the agency's name
and an offer to provide travel help for the wedding.
Couples are typically delighted because "we've just made their
life easier," said Meyer. She'll also set up a travel wedding
registry, providing wedding guests with the chance to buy gift
certificates for the bride and groom that could be applied to the
honeymoon or to future trips.
This is the kind of extra business that most agents can get, but
"I bet nine out of 10 agents have honeymoon couples coming in and
never ask about friends and families coming in from out of town,"
Working the trade
To expand her agency's marketing reach, Nina Meyer, managing
director of Carlson Wagonlit/Vision Travel in Coral Gables, Fla.,
works closely with trade associations (see story above for Meyer's
other ideas on improving business).
hers was the host agency for the international orchid show in
Miami, handling travel arrangements and pre- and post-tours for
exhibitors as well as show attendees, thus extending her agency's
reach to a nationwide base of affluent and well-educated
One good tactic is to call your local convention bureau to find
out what trade shows are coming in, she said. For instance, when a
real estate show was in town, Meyer became an exhibitor, paying a
small fee for a booth. To bring traffic into her booth, she put up
a big sign that said, "Take time to smell the roses," with a dozen
red roses located in the back.
She asked passersby if they were "stressed out and overworked?"
-- a question that virtually everybody answered with a yes. Then
she followed up by asking if they'd ever been to a spa or on other
stress-reducing vacations. The result? Lots of new bookings.
Meyer also advised working with associations to run joint
fund-raising projects associated with travel. "Read your
neighborhood papers -- they'll have a list of organizations and
[the dates] when they're meeting. Then call them and ask if they
want to make some money for their organization," Meyer
Such prospecting "just takes a little time and energy" as well
as a positive attitude, she said. Remember "that you have to get
100 no's before you get the first yes, so with every no you get
happier because you're that much closer to a yes."Fated to be an agent
By David Wilkening
Not knowing what to do with her life, Sharon Pollard was passing
through Glastonbury, England, when she went to a psychic for
"She told me to just keep on traveling, and I would be fine. I
asked her how much longer -- maybe two weeks? She said, 'You'd
better start thinking about 10 years,' " Pollard recalled.
Pollard, who'd had a love affair with travel ever since her
first overseas trip to France, took the psychic's advice -- after a
fashion. She came back home to her native Orlando and enrolled in
She's now been an agent for 11 years, one year longer than the
psychic's recommendation. Pollard maintains an office at Regal
Travel Services in Orlando, her host agency.
When booking trips, she feels "it's very important to stay at
good hotels because it's your headquarters. You want a nice
address." So she often recommends that clients stay at 17th century
chateaus or older establishments such as castles.
"The ambience in some of them is like being in a museum. They
give you a sense of history. And many are relative bargains -- you
might be paying $125 a night for two people in one room," she