Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Jamie Biesiada is on leave. This insight originally appeared in the Home-based Agent eNewsletter May 7, 2018.

Education and specialization are key for agents who want to book family travel, according to Sally Black, founder of travel agency Vacationkids and the director of the Family Travel Association (FTA).

And according to Black, it's a good kind of travel to know how to book: "I kind of feel that if you can book family travel, because of its complications, you can kind of book anything."

Family travel is an area with a lot of opportunity for agents. According to the 2017 Family Travel Survey, research conducted by the FTA and New York University, 88% of families were "very likely" or "likely" to travel with their children in the coming year. Over half of the survey's respondents spent between $1,000 and $4,999 on travel in the past year. Only a quarter of respondents (1,599 in total) said they used a travel agent for help with family vacations in the past five years.

The FTA recently launched a family travel certification for agents that can definitely help with the education part of the equation. The course has 23 video modules and requires completing a 50-question test to complete the certification.

Last week, Black said that among the valuable content in the course is information on the FTA's research. She specifically appreciates the three distinct family travel profiles identified in the U.S. Family Travel Survey since 2015: hassle-free travelers, cautious travelers and intrepid travelers.

"That really helps me to identify, when I'm qualifying with somebody, who I am talking to," she said. "It gives me a little insight into their realm of thinking.

For instance, if a hassle-free traveler wants to take their family to Orlando each year for a Walt Disney World vacation, an agent probably wouldn't want to change that, Black said ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it"). 

It also presents an agent an opportunity to gain a traveler's trust if they're of the cautious variety; an agent can open up new, different travel experiences for them.

And with intrepid travelers, sometimes it becomes an agent's job to dissuade some of their more adventurous plans. For instance, Black said, discouraging a trip to Machu Picchu with very young children.

"It's nice to have those insights," she said. "I found that very helpful moving forward, and if you're new to the industry or new to family travel."

Black said the best family agents she knows are dedicated to the family market. They also have a specialty within family travel, something Black calls a "micro-specialty."

"With any niche specialty that agents work in, you have the umbrella specialties, and then there are so many micro-specialties underneath everything," she said. 

In the family market, for instance, Black met an agent who is fluent in Chinese. She is working to bring Chinese families into the U.S.

Success, she said, comes from "not only education."

"It's also looking for micro-specialties within that big umbrella that can really open up business."

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