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Agent to Agent: It’s Your Job to Know New Passport Laws

Dear Tammy: There are so many changes in travel laws that we need to be aware of.

Can you please explain to me which states allow residents to use their driver’s license as an ID and those that don’t? I just don’t seem to be able to keep up.

Tammy: That’s like saying you’re a doctor and can’t keep up with the latest medical advancements in your field—hogwash.

As a travel agent, it’s your responsibility to keep up with the ever-changing laws in order to be able to help your client travel to their destinations.

It’s really not hard to follow. The new laws go into effect at the beginning of 2018—January 22nd to be exact—and relates to nine states: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

If your client is a resident of any one of these states, he or she will have to use another form of identification to get through TSA security—and this is the important part: no matter where they are traveling, even if it’s in the United States.

The identification can include a passport, military ID or permanent resident card.

This is happening because these nine states failed to meet the government’s minimum security standards, so they now must verify every traveler’s identity. Keep in mind that this list can change if the states comply with the laws and meet the standards. If they do, those states will be granted extensions before the law are to take effect.

The best way to solve the problem is to encourage any clients who are from these states listed to either get a passport— or chance waiting to see if their state’s laws change in time.

You should also be notifying your clients of these laws, either through your Facebook page or other social media, through an email newsletter or even a snail mail letter.

Keep your clients up to date on what’s going on in the world. 

It’s time to advise your clients about this and other changes they need to know about when they travel. They trust that you are the expert providing valuable information. Imagine if one of your clients was suddenly stuck at the airport and couldn’t travel on their vacation because you didn’t tell them about this change?

Do you honestly think they would trust you to plan another vacation for them? I didn’t think so.

Agent to Agent: Winning the Daily Battle for Time

Dear Tammy: I’m doing really well in my travel agency business. I’m keeping up with knowing my products, but the problem is that I’m falling behind on other things.

For example, I need to send out emails, create advertisements, handle social media, etc. I feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything I need to do.

What do I do first? How do I get it all done?

Tammy: Running a business is hard work and you need to be able to do a bit of everything, especially in the beginning when it’s all on you. Sounds like you need more training on running your business, and I don’t mean product knowledge because I know that you are successful in that area.

It sounds like you need additional training when it comes to the day to day of running a business, such as organization and time management. Without having a structure in place, the daily paperwork, emails, phone calls, etc., can all get overwhelming and, before you know it, you find yourself falling behind.

Consider contacting your local Chamber of Commerce, which often does business skills training for a minimal fee, (or no fee if you are a member). Here you’ll learn how to organize your day and maximize your time.

Libraries and colleges with continuing education courses are also options for finding business training. You might also be able to take a college-level course or even audit a class to learn more.

I also teach courses through my TASK program on how to make a travel agent more successful, all the way around.

READ MORE: Travel Institute Rolls Out New Skill Building for Agents  

Before you get started, it’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve and what is the most important to you. For example, maybe you really enjoy handling social media, but time management and calendars aren’t your thing. Perhaps, hire someone to do those things for you so that you can focus on what’s important to you.

It’s also important to have a proper team in place when you start a business. For example, an accountant can help with any financial tasks you have, while an attorney can help decipher the legal mumbo jumbo. A professional organizer can help get you organized, while a virtual assistant can complete research tasks if needed.

You can do this, you just need to know how.

Agent to Agent: Your Value Versus Online Booking Sites

Dear Tammy: I have a client who always contacts me after they go on to one of those online travel sites. They do this on purpose.

See, they say that they want to do their research first to see how much the hotel and airfare is going to be, so they can compare it to what I say. Now I understand, and even appreciate, that a client does his/her due diligence when it comes to budgeting, but I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells and that all I have to do is say one dollar off from their number and they’ll go buy their tickets elsewhere.

What can I tell them to assure them that they should be doing all of this through me?

Tammy: First, it’s understandable that you’re frustrated and feel as if you’re walking on eggshells. It’s hard to keep clients today with the advent of these online travel sites, so we have to make sure that we’re on top of our game.

What that means is first teaching your clients about the advantages of booking with us and not with the online travel sites.

Let your clients know that obtaining their rates on these travel sites can change almost minute to minute. If they go in and out of the same site to see a hotel rate before deciding—just to see if the rate goes down—their cookies tells the computer that they’ve been here before and actually may make the rate go up. Not always, but sometimes.

Do they want to risk that?

Airline sites are notorious for forcing the consumer’s hand. As a result, the traveler sees that the prices are going up, so they book their tickets as soon as it does and you lost the booking. This happens to many people.

In addition, teach your clients that going in and out of these sites has provided the online sites with some valuable spending habit information. These sites then sell their information, and your client is suddenly being targeted with emails etc., trying to get them to buy into other vacations.

His/her research is extremely valuable information to them.

Travel agents bring more to the table than dollar signs. Teach your clients that. Tell them that we are there if something goes wrong. We are there to do the work for them, booking the trips and the excursions. We have everything ready for them so all they have to do is go to the vacation spot of their dreams and enjoy themselves.

We will remind them of things they might have forgotten about: A dream wedding in another country? Sure, we can do that, but here’s what you need to know about paperwork you’ll need to get married there.

The bottom line is that you’re competing with online travel agents, so to do that you have to act like one. My agency does just that. We are open 24 hours a day and offer price match guarantee. Except we also do all those other things I’ve mentioned too—that the online travel agents don’t do.

If your customer still wishes to do their trips this way, (by researching first and then calling you), tell them to block searches by going incognito on their site and not have history stored when they searching.

Hopefully, once you share this information with your clients and show them your value, they’ll eventually drop their research and just phone you directly.

Agent to Agent: Don’t Sweat Airbnb, Just Get Smarter

Dear Tammy: Being a travel agent since Airbnb came into play has been difficult. First, we had to deal with online travel agents who took our business and now this. How are we supposed to compete?


First of all, relax…seriously.

The travel industry isn’t any different than any other industry out there. There’s always someone who is competing against someone else. There’s always a business where someone else has invented a way to do things smarter, faster, more efficiently, less costly, etc. We’re supposed to compete and always stay on our toes. When one business makes something or does something, our job is to make or do something bigger and better.

Here’s the interesting part about Airbnb and the changes it has had on the industry. Ever since it came into play, villas are a hot commodity to sell.

I recently met with Steve Lassman with Villas of Distinction and our conversation was very interesting. We talked about the fact that Airbnb and other online home rental places have opened the doors to villa rentals around the globe.

Here is something to consider. How is it possible for Airbnb to vet out and screen over four million properties that they sell or do a complete screening of the renter rather than the property owner?

This is a key factor when working with Airbnb and other online rentals. At the end of the day, whatever you sell as a travel agent you are representing. It is a reflection of your business and your standards. Your number one concern should be the safety of your clients and their travel experience.

As for me, I personally would never resell an online product or Airbnb, However, I have found with Villas of Distinction that a lot of the villas are very reasonable and, I can’t reiterate this enough, they are secure and safe with someone there for you 24/7 if you need help for your clients.

I am sure that there are other companies to work with. I am just sharing my personal experience and making sure I have covered my agency from any potential liability. So, when faced with something new, like Airbnb, think about how you can change your business to make it work for you.

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