Can you compete with Costco Travel and other membership clubs? Part 1

Uncategorized Apr 01, 2017

As many of you know, I have had the pleasure of working the front lines of travel sales as well as in executive sales roles with two major travel franchise groups and supplier executive. As a result, I often look at opportunities from a different perspective and have contrarian views to many of the leaders and gurus in the industry.

One such view surfaced during a recent conversation with a friend of mine, also in the travel consulting business, about the proliferation of membership clubs selling travel. He was of the opinion that the average travel agent simply can’t compete with them, so why try.To that, I stated most agents can go up against them, in fact I have been successfully competing with these clubs for years.

In the 1990s and early 2000’s, Sam Club Travel was the dominate force in member travel sales. Sam’s got out of the travel business (they have recently reentered the arena) and the dominate player in member club travel sales is currently Costco...

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The Chicken or the Egg?

Uncategorized Mar 23, 2017

I had an interesting conversation with a student of my online program a few weeks ago. She lives not far from me so instead of the usual phone consultation, I asked if she would meet me for coffee. It was a beautiful Seattle morning and as we talked, part of her story had a familiar ring to it. In fact, I hear it so often, I have come to expect it.

She has been in business for about a year and has done everything her host/franchisor instructed. She wrote a marketing & branding plan, built a website, became active in social media, participated in numerous product webinars, but something was missing. That something is "Sales". They trickled in here and there, but not enough to sustain the business, much less make a living.

She is at a place where many of you are currently or you will be at some point. She is frustrated and understandably so. She is doing everything she was taught, but as I said, this is a story I hear often – and not just from new agents trying to the...

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Local Star Power?

Uncategorized Mar 23, 2017

Last week, my in-laws decided we should all go to the casino for an afternoon of fun. I am not a big gambler, but for a few hours—I was game. One of the players at our poker table repeated these words with every hand: “ Go big or go home.”

This reminded me of a big gamble I made with my travel agency. Outwardly, we were very successful, and from a sales perspective, we were. We did a fairly high volume of contemporary product. Because of this, we were often treated like VIPs—flown first class to inaugural events, served lavish dinners with industry executives, and so on. However, we were in real danger of going out of business due to low margins and high cost of sale, so we made the biggest gamble since starting the company. We turned our business model 180 degrees and began focusing on attracting affluent customers as large part of the overall sales strategy. Go big or go home!

Many people are intimidated by affluent prospects, people who have achieved a...

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What Makes you So Special?

Uncategorized Mar 02, 2017

Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking River Cruises, said in a recent interview, “We are focused clearly on what we are and the number of things we are not.”

Wow! If you want to know why Viking is so successful, I think this statement sums it up nicely. As a sales professional, the message is clear. In order to stand out among the plethora of booking options, get clear on who you are and who you are not. Ask yourself, “What makes me special?” and “What do I want to be known for?”

These are powerful questions that I always ask of my students and audiences around the world. Usually, the response is an awkward silence. In an environment where everyone from Costco to Sea Ray Boats is selling travel, how can retail travel professionals get clear on who they are and who they are not? If a company as complex as Viking River Cruises knows who they are, why is it so hard for retail travel professionals to gain this clarity?

I like to hike, so much...

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Strive to Become a Better Choice

Uncategorized Feb 01, 2017

Recently, an interesting post in one of the newer travel agent Facebook groups caught my attention.

A member made a public declaration (post) that she was leaving the group because she only wanted to associate and share ideas with what she considered to be “real and legitimate” travel agents.

What I found interesting is regardless of their business model, virtually all agents in this group (around 1000) are home based and many are cruise focused.  This agent had particularly strong feelings about who was “real and legitimate,” and those in the group who didn’t make the cut.

When I started our cruise-only travel agency in 1993 after working on cruise ships, I knew it would fill a need. After all, I had spent almost six years onboard listening to passengers tell me what they liked and disliked about working with a travel agent.

Many of you may be cruise focused, and what you do is widely accepted, however this was not always the...

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