New York Business Travel: Agent to Agent

It's a tough job trying to gain the confidence and knowledge necessary to sell New York City to the millions of corporate travelers who conduct business here. Following are some useful tips from those who do it often.

Anne-Marie Grady, manager of Travel Express in Ocean City, N.J., says the key to her success is the fact that she lived in the city herself for years. "You have to understand it to sell it," she says.

Since she considers New York the "bottom-line area for the business world," one of the most important factors for an agent is keeping apprised of the changes at the hotels and maintaining contacts.

"In a town that has tens of thousands of rooms, it is amazing that sometimes you have trouble getting one." Knowing the reservations and sales managers is one step toward making sure your clients are happy, she says.

Her clients' comments also are of particular importance in this ever-changing market. Grady says this feedback, as well as keeping up-to-date with the trade papers and getting into the city herself when she can, keeps her well-informed.

Grady also points out that one of her most valuable resource tools for selling New York is really no secret at all: the Internet. She adds that she doesn't think agents are making the most of this incredible source, which can prove invaluable in a city of this size, where agents can't possibly see everything in person.

Timothy Beach, president of Scarborough Travel Services in Briarcliff, N.Y., agrees that the Internet is invaluable.

Beach also concurrs that, especially in a city like New York, knowledge is important. "You must know the hotels and their locations, as well as where your clients intend to do their business once they arrive," he says. "Location is the key for corporate clients here, so you have to ask if they are doing business uptown, midtown or downtown."

Beach has his own strategy for keeping abreast of the latest hotel news. Scoffing at the traditional site inspections and scheduled tours held on-site, he says he prefers to get right to the point and "just show up" at the properties he wants to see. "I don't have the time for regular site inspections," he says. "I can cover 10 times more on my own." His trick: He plans his itinerary for the day, starting downtown, and making his way uptown.

Sara Martin, group coordinator at Martinsville Travel in Martinsville, Va., has three recommendations for selling New York: be familiar with New York as a destination, have a good relationship with a receptive operator in the city and keep abreast of the changes in areas such as hotels and Broadway shows. "Read New Yorker magazine, the New York Times supplements and keep up-to-date," she says. "If not, it can be daunting."

Because Martin deals so often with groups, she says one of her biggest selling tools is the fact that she sends an escort along with the group to make sure things go smoothly, she says. "If there are problems while they are there, then we deal with it."

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The New York Convention & Visitors Bureau: 810 Seventh Ave., 3rd floor, New York 10019.

Phone: (800) 693-7293 for agents; (800) 693-7290 for meeting planners; (800) 693-7292 for operators; fax (212) 246-6310 or (212) 484-1280 for meetings and conventions; Web site: www.ncvisit.com.

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