Skiing: Agent to Agent

There is no doubt that selling skiing can be a lucrative proposition for agents. Not only are the ski packages themselves commissionable, but so are equipment rentals and nonski activities. Despite this fact, many agents are less than comfortable venturing into this arena. Here, three agents offer their tips on how to become more confident and adept at selling this sport to your clients.

Carole Williams, owner and executive vice president of Travel 15 in Roseland, N.J., has several tips for selling ski. The most important for her, she says, is being a skier: "I am personally involved in the sport and have knowledge of it."

She says it is critical to find out the exact ski level of your clients. "If they are advanced, they know where they want to be," says Williams. "But if they aren't, or if they are traveling with intermediate skiers, you have to find the right place."

This means being familiar with the various mountains. For example, she says, agents booking a family must choose a place that offers a great ski school and good terrain for kids, as well as more advanced runs for the adults. The bottom line: A place with something for everyone.

She recommends knowing the finer details about the hotels and resorts as well, including how close they are to the base of the mountain, and whether or not they are ski-in/ski-out.

"It makes no sense to offer a good hotel if the mountain doesn't have the quality of skiing and the other amenities that your client needs," she says.

Marion Closter, ski and sports specialist at Penthouse Travel in North Merrick, N.Y., has been a skier for 25 years and, like Williams, considers that to be her greatest asset when booking a client. She also makes sure she knows her clients' ski level, as well as the age of the group she is booking, and whether or not they are a family or a group of singles.

Closter encourages agents to get a clear understanding of how important ease of travel is to your clients. "Many ski resorts are accessible via a nonstop flight and a quick transfer from the airport, while others are more remote."

She also advises knowing how to save your clients money if they are on a tight budget. "If they are willing to be further away from the resort and take a shuttle bus, they can save half the price," she says. "Also, a place that is nice but doesn't have the hot tubs and fireplaces can be a great find if the clients don't mind the lack of amenities."

Marcella Rappoport, executive vice president of World Travel Specialists in Harrison, N.Y., says being a skier is not always necessary. She keeps abreast of the industry through her clients who do ski, through hoteliers she has a relationship with, through the ski areas' tourist bureaus and through tour operators.

In addition, she suggests becoming familiar with the destinations themselves, given the different atmospheres at various resorts. "Aspen is very social, while other areas are more low-key," she notes. "You must qualify where your clients are going."

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Suppliers

SnowSports Industries America (SIA) is the national, nonprofit, member-owned trade association of competing snow sports product suppliers, working together for the development of the snow sports industry.

It can be reached at (703) 556-9020, fax (703) 821-8276. It offers a fax-on-demand service at (800) 730-3636, which allows users to get immediate information on a host of ski products with one phone call. The Web site is www.snowlink.com.

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