Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Sometimes, all you need is a little spark of inspiration to get your next big booking.

That's exactly what happened to Melissa Erskine of iDream Travel in Burlington, Ontario, when she recently attended Cruise360.

Erskine shared her story about a successful group booking during the recent CoNexion conference aboard the Harmony of the Seas during her NEXTalk. (Last week, I shared some insight from another agent's NEXTalk on building a successful agency.) Erskine's topic was making the most out of a training opportunity.

While she was at Cruise360, Erskine said, she took a course in developing group business. She enjoyed it so much that she skipped another class to take a more advanced course in groups.

On Facebook, she connected with a woman who runs a family travel page with 130,000 followers. The woman was looking for someone to arrange a spring break trip for the families, and Erskine answered the call. She was going to arrange something at an all-inclusive resort, but instead, the training she did at Cruise360 inspired her to arrange a group cruise.

Within the first 24 hours, she had some 300 requests from families hoping to sail on the cruise. As of last month, she had more than 90 cabins booked for one sailing and had even accommodated a few other families with different sailings because there were no cabins left on the original for families of three or more.

Erskine also garnered six bookings for other families who either didn't want to cruise or had to travel on alternate dates.

She advised agents to find their "pied piper," a person to connect you with a niche community that might be interested in a group trip. In her case, the pied piper was the Facebook group administrator, and her niche was family travel.

She also encouraged agents to create vacations that offer value outside of the typical, cookie-cutter trip. For instance, during her group cruise, she plans to hold several activities.

"Offer some value that nobody can replicate," she said.

Going into the booking, Erskine said, she had "nothing to lose." It didn't cost her anything to reserve the initial 16 cabins for a group, and she had no trouble filling them five fold.

"I had everything to gain, and you do, too," she said.

Erskine won Nexion's Rising Star Award this year, recognizing significant sales growth and a commitment to professional education in the past year.

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