Awards and rewards

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I am thinking of two very sharp travel agents. Confident of their value to clients, both have long charged service fees of one kind or another.

But their response to the annual Travel Weekly Travel Agency Achievement Awards contest is quite different.

Sande Davidson, while owner of Davidson Travel in Phoenix, entered regularly and won six times. Davidson, who sold her agency to Hagar Journeys but remains in the business at Hagar's Scottsdale office, says those awards gave her increased clout with suppliers and gave her extra promotional points with clients.

A day or two after United initiated the most recent airline commission caps, I was talking about that news with Nancy Strong, who operates Strong Travel in Dallas. I also suggested she enter the Travel Weekly awards contest, and she demurred, saying she already felt comfortable that she and her staff do a good job. I don't doubt that. Besides, her API-affiliated agency probably has the supplier clout it needs, and her mostly upscale FIT clients don't need to see blue ribbons on office walls to know they have the right agent for them.

Nevertheless, I am using my space to encourage you to enter the Travel Weekly contest.

One reason is in the interests of this publication. That is, the more entries we receive, the better the selection and the stronger the winners and the awards program itself. Another reason is, I think, in the interests of the trade.

As you face commission cuts and the need to impose service fees more often, or for the first time, it is growing more important to establish your credentials as professionals. I believe you would do well to seek recognition both within the industry and outside it.

In the industry, the Travel Weekly competition is one opportunity. Of course, prizes in the trade are not enough. Most of all, the public has to value your work.

When you have the chance, put yourself in a position to be recognized among clients and prospective clients as a professional with expertise to sell. This may mean entering competitions, or it may mean cultivating relationships with the consumer press so you will be called on as a valuable resource by reporters.

In a column earlier this month, Alan Fredericks spelled out eight "combat strategies" to consider in this post-caps era. I am offering this as strategy No. 9: Go public with your expertise, and don't be shy about it, either.

  • To enter Travel Weekly's awards contest, look for the entry blank in all Monday issues of Travel Weekly this month. Or call Kim Scholz at (201) 902-1745 or e-mail her at [email protected] for details.
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