Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: March 1, 2004

TOOLS OF THE TRADE: TW's Home-Based Agent E-Letter had a chance to catch up with Anita Pagliasso-Balamane, author of "How I Made a Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent." Much of the book is dedicated to showing independent travel agents how to make every client feel like a VIP. For example, every client who books a trip gets a thank-you gift and a follow-up phone call. The book also provides worksheets, sample office documents and promotion ideas. Along with quality service, Pagliasso-Balamane says networking is a top priority, since "without a storefront, home-based agents need to go out and find the business."

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE today for home-based agents, she says, is technology. A client database is crucial, Pagliasso-Balamane says, for marketing purposes. "And it's so important to be able to track sales and commissions, and sales volume per supplier. You need to be able to show your suppliers exactly what you've sold for them, and you need that information at your fingertips. The technology is getting better, but it's not perfect yet." Pagliasso-Balamane, who owns Ticket to Travel, in San Jose, Calif., and recently expanded her business to include 25 independents, is now helping to test a new database software program designed by some friends. She is the western regional manager for OSSN and is its San Jose chapter director. Visit www.redticketproductions.com to learn more about her strategies.

IN YOUR POCKET: Austin-Lehman Adventures hiked its commission level on all bookings to 15% for 2004. It had been 12%. Additionally, agents who book at least one trip in 2004 will begin 2005 at the 15% level and will maintain it every year they sell at least 10 trips, said the Billings, Mont., company, which specializes in high-end multi-sport adventure tours in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica. Its Web site is www.austinlehmanadventuresvacationguide.com.

EDUCATION NEWS
• NACTA added two Seminars at Sea to its roster of agent education programs. The first is a seven-night sailing from Fort Lauderdale aboard Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' Navigator, departing April 12. The second, a nine-night cruise aboard the Radisson Diamond, sails April 26 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Fanchal, Madeira. Rates and seminar details are listed at www.nacta.com.
• The Travel Institute launched a program -- Destination Specialist St. Lucia. It's sponsored by the St. Lucia Tourist Board. Check out www.thetravelinstitute.com or call (800) 542-4282.

DATEBOOK:

OSSN's Central New Jersey/New York Chapter will host a meeting March 9 featuring Luxury Cruising with SeaDream and the World of Contiki. The event will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Denny's Restaurant, Route 18, East Brunswick, N.J. Lucille DePerro of SeaDream and Alena Maloney of Contiki Holidays are the featured speakers. Contact chapter director Frank Hryszkanich for more details, (732) 251-1775 or by email to [email protected].

FAM OF THE WEEK
Bahamas
Dates valid: Through April 17 for overnight stays.
Sponsor: Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort, Nassau.
Cost: The all-inclusive rate is priced at $125; the EP rate at $99.
Noteworthy: The rate applies to one agent and one companion per room. Agents must attend a site inspection during the stay.
Contact: (800) 777-7800 or access information via the GDSs through code RD.

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