One way that agents in the U.S. have organically grown business abroad is by tapping into ethnic markets stateside.
Craig Hsu, vice president of Travel Design USA, has long sold outbound travel to Chinese-Americans living in the U.S., through his family’s 25-year-old travel company, based in Torrance, Calif.
Eventually, those clients, who often travel back and forth to China and to other neighboring countries in Asia, spread the word. Travel Design now has brand recognition in several Asian countries.
The company is growing its travel business in Asia without doing any marketing or having a physical presence there.
“It wasn’t so much that we were looking for this market, it’s just who we are: Chinese-American,” Hsu said. “When people live here, they often have dual residences overseas. They have friends and family and relatives in China and Hong Kong and Taiwan and any other Asian countries they come from. They want to travel, too, and they contact us.”
Hsu’s agency sells trips to everywhere in the world. His family started a sister company, China Discovery Tours, that specifically markets tours to China for the U.S. market.
In a region in the nascent stage of a travel boom, which doesn’t have enough travel sellers to fulfill the growing need, Travel Design’s expertise is valuable.
“People in those countries aren’t as expert or know the cruise lines as well as we do, and so they call us,” Hsu said.
The company’s website is translated into Chinese both for its Chinese-American customers and also for Chinese-speaking people in Asia.
With cruise being Travel Design’s “bread and butter,” Hsu said, his team translates all information about every ship, itinerary and destination. But it takes more than a website and brochures to be able to sell to people abroad.
“The reason it works with us is we speak their language,” Hsu said. “We can relate to people over there.”
He explained that his team can write and speak in several dialects of the Chinese language, to accommodate clients from mainland China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. Those cultural nuances give overseas clientele comfort in dealing with Travel Design.
“That’s how we are able to capture and cater to those types of clientele overseas,” he said. “That’s why they feel more comfortable talking to us and dealing with us, not just for our expertise.”
As for cruise lines that won’t allow Hsu to sell the cruises to those markets, he simply sells the ones that do. “We try to steer them to another cruise line,” he said. “It usually isn’t a big problem. They trust our expertise.”
Hsu said with the Asia market growing, his company benefited from growth there when the U.S. market weakened. “We’re lucky that we are able to tap into both markets,” he said.