Do you want to know the secret
that set my agency -- Century Travel of Austin, Texas -- on the
path to surviving and thriving after the first round of airline
commission cuts 10 years ago? A three-week cruise.
announced its cuts in February 1995, my agencys owners were leaving
one week later on a three-week sailing. They decided almost
immediately to introduce service fees for clients, even though many
other agency owners in our area felt that consumers werent ready to
pay such fees.
They acted quickly,
they stuck close to their customers -- and Century Travel is here
today as a result. From the days of relying primarily upon vendor
commissions for our revenues, successful travel agents today depend
significantly upon payment from our clients -- and were healthier
and more profitable as a result.
Thats the primary
lesson Ive learned, as I reflect upon the last 10 years: Travel
agents must learn to sense changes around us and get moving in
order to stay ahead of these curves. Theres no time for hand
wringing or waiting to see how things settle out. The biggest
personal change for me in staying ahead of the curve was to find a
niche in selling Italy and, more widely, Europe. As a result, I
have acquired clients all across the country as well as from other
They are typically
professionals who pay to have their lawns mowed and their houses
cleaned -- and they fully expect to pay for my knowledge, expertise
and consultation when they plan significant trips.
When a client
recently sent me a lengthy itinerary for a trip to Germany and
Italy that included a seven-night stay in Tuscany, I reviewed his
answers to my client questionnaire (interests, budget, ages of
travelers, past travel experiences, goals for the trip, etc.) and
quickly recommended one particular property.
The client was
amazed and delighted with how much it matched his groups needs
perfectly. Such targeted planning is what clients seek, rather than
the overload of information available on the Internet.
Ten years after the
Delta cuts, were more than reservationists; we are advisers and
counselors who deserve to be paid accordingly. And, weve learned
the valuable lesson that many financially troubled airlines today
seem to have forgotten: To stay ahead of
the curve, you must act fast and stick as close to the customer as
CTC, serves as chairman of the board of directors for ARTA, North
Americas largest nonprofit trade organization that represents only
travel agents. Travel & Leisure named her to The A-List: Top
125 Travel Super-Agents for her expertise in selling travel to
Italy and Switzerland.