New York Fall: Agent to agent

A combination of solid staff training and scheduling special travel events for clients has helped Mann Travel & Cruises successfully sell New York City to its customers, according to Katie Lundy, manager of the agency's Raleigh, N.C., office.

Her tips for agents who want to increase their sales to the Big Apple include picking a good wholesaler, comparing suppliers' rates and staying on top of developments in New York.

"We read the major New York publications regularly to see what shows are playing and to find out what are the new restaurants. We also [access] the shows in our computer so we can discuss them with the clients."

Lundy also advises agents that in New York, timing is critical.

"You have to be aware of the times of the year when the city is hard to book, like Christmas," she says.

"We all go to educational seminars, but we also hold special nights for clients in our office," she says.

"We have wholesalers, like Tauck Tours [800-468-2825], attending these nights who participate with us [handing out brochures, etc.]," adds Lundy. In addition to spotlighting particular travel destinations, like New York, some evenings are themed to special topics, such as cruises.

"We let our clients know about these travel nights by advertising in the local newspaper," says Lundy, who adds that she's a big believer, in general, of the power of advertising. "Our agency not only advertises in the local paper, but also on TV."

Similarly, Mann Travel's executives are strong proponents of continuing professional training.

"Even though we're all sales experts, our general manager recently heard about an intensive travel-related sales course and enrolled us," says Lundy.

Lee Perry, travel counselor for American Express Platinum Travel in Jacksonville, Fla., says that the agency has developed certain programs to deal with its very high-end clients (American Express Platinum Card members).

"We work with several hotels in New York with whom we have negotiated special rates, based on volume, and where we can get upgrades, for instance, early check-in, late check-out, breakfast, etc. These are generally negotiated with four- and five-star hotels."

Frequent fam trips to the Big Apple (and, in Perry's case, the fact that she lived there for a while) have helped her to sell the city to her upscale clients.

Like Mann Travel, American Express Platinum Travel also provides a solid mix of staff training and client-oriented travel programs, says Perry.

"We often have airlines and hotels come to our office and do presentations for our clients. They bring along a lot of useful literature, promotional materials and give-aways."

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