Brownell's Kerry Dyer discusses her new role and new challenges

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Brownell (No. 35 on Travel Weekly's 2022 Power List) recently promoted Kerry Dyer to chief development officer, a new post at the Birmingham, Ala.-based agency. Dyer will oversee marketing and talent development and, specifically, expand the hosting and mentoring programs. Senior retail editor Jamie Biesiada recently caught up with Dyer to talk about her new role, what the future holds and more.

Kerry Dyer
Kerry Dyer

Q: What is your focus in your new position?

A: We spent a lot of time during Covid, when things weren't selling, helping people rightsize their businesses and prioritize their businesses. We helped to clean out the closet while there wasn't a lot going on, and now we know what they need for that next level.

There's a lot of focus on getting our people together by region. And then another huge part of that is marketing, whether that is marketing for the advisors to their clients and their consumers and getting the message out about their business or marketing of the Brownell brand. For example, as people have decided during Covid they didn't want to be an attorney anymore, they didn't want to be the CMO (chief marketing officer) of Pepsi, they wanted to get into travel, we wanted to make sure that we were there with the mentoring program to get them there. Also, [marketing to] existing travel advisors who decided ... they needed more engagement and support, so they knew Brownell was a place that they could come.

Q: Industrywide, I'm seeing a lot of hires and promotions, especially in positions dedicated to supporting independent contractors. What are your thoughts?

A: I think that people understand the power of the individual business owner underneath their brand and their company. Covid was an opportunity for things to slow down for five minutes, as painful as it was. But it did give people the time to think and consider what's next. For us, we've had some blueprints out there that we really planned to get rolling in 2020 and 2021. Then those blueprints got shoved in a drawer. I think that's also what's happening with [other companies] -- they had these plans they just couldn't execute for two years, and now there's a backlash of initiatives and intentions they're finally able to execute.

Q: Has Covid brought about any fundamental changes to the host agency model?

A: Covid was an awakening moment of, "What do I really want to be doing?" Travel is a big thing that people wanted to do. I think the level of person that is coming into the travel industry are those professionals in different fields. As they're making that switch, they want to be entrepreneurs. They don't want to be employees. If this person was a CMO of a company, imagine what their compensation was. To be an employee travel advisor, you're not going to get anywhere near that. But if you're an entrepreneur and you're launching your own business, the sky's the limit of the compensation that you can have.

I think that is where that host agency idea has become even more prevalent, because these are individual business owners who want to create their own destiny, and that's what that allows them to do. Everyone is really investing in that idea because it is not only here to stay, but it's a huge growth opportunity.

Q: Are there more changes to come for hosts?

A: Where we've started to see investment is in the training component of it. We've had our mentoring program -- our first class was in 2006, and we've got class No. 26 starting in August. One of our blueprints that I was mentioning is that we need an evolution in that, and that is something on our mind. Not to say we'll be leaving behind what we have always been doing, but what are people looking for that may be different? How can we get ahead of that game and accommodate? I think a lot of other people have been entering that realm of training and helping people get into the travel business.

I also think there's more awareness of the importance of community. This is what Covid also brought to mind. Because you are an independent contractor, you are an independent advisor, you are an entrepreneur and you're at home by yourself. We've always been very big on community, but I see a lot of other agencies coming to that, too. How are we making people feel included? How are we connecting with them to ensure that they're a part of the bigger community? 

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