Host agency and consortium affiliation hold a number of benefits for travel advisors when they find the right fit for them and their business. Similarly, franchises offer a number of tools agents can use to build their business or take it to the next level.
That was the case for Annie Maturino, who owns a Cruise Planners franchise in Kingsport, Tenn.
Maturino is a 26-year veteran travel advisor. She was hosted by several agencies over the years, but for the past nine years has been with Cruise Planners. When she started, she was doing about $100,000 in annual sales.
Today, she's in Cruise Planners' Millionaires Club, meaning she completed more than $1 million in annual sales.
Maturino attributes a lot of her success to taking advantage of tools and programs provided by Cruise Planners. It offers a number of opportunities to book clients into groups, she said, and one promotion in particular has been useful for her: Come Sail Away With Me.
The Come Sail Away With Me marketing campaign encourages clients to sail with their travel advisors. It's helped Maturino build a following, something that's translated into repeat clients.
"Start making a following for yourself," she encouraged other agents, whether they have access to campaigns like Come Sail Away With Me or not. "You are the niche."
Also important, she said, is education. She advised agents to keep up to date on whatever courses are offered by the suppliers they sell a lot so their knowledge base is current.
She also said it's important to be patient and put in some hard work, including reaching out to customers after every trip to follow up on their vacation.
"You've got the customer, you've got to keep them," she said.
Maturino markets heavily on Facebook, on which she runs five pages, and she also maintains a presence on Instagram.
One tactic that has been particularly successful for her has been planning affinity cruises for fans of the Abba tribute band Abbacadabra. One of the Facebook pages she runs is dedicated to fans of the band, and she uses it to hype the cruises.
She arranges to have the band play just for her clients, and the concerts are always a hit, especially when Maturino puts her own twist on things. On a recent cruise, she found out that three couples were each celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries this year. She bought them crowns and had the band call each couple up on stage. It was an experience they're not likely to forget soon, nor will they forget the travel advisor who planned it.