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Agent to Agent: The Right Kind of Training Is Important

MARCH 08, 2017

Dear Tammy: I recently have been offered an opportunity to go through both travel agent sales training and product training. I’m a new travel agent to the industry and, to be honest, I don’t really understand the difference. I want to become a great travel agent, but I need to know what the difference is.

Should I go through both or just one? What are the pros and cons of each?

Tammy: Maybe the best way to explain it is like this. Imagine you’re a brand new surgeon. A new company has shown you some of the best new operating equipment on the market today. You want to start using it, but you have no patients. That equipment is now useless to you because you do not have anyone to operate on. It’s the same as a travel agent. You can go and take as much product training as you want. You can learn about new resorts or package deals, but without any customers, you have no one to use it on.
It’s important for you to become a great travel agent first and that means taking travel agent sales training.
Learning how to obtain your customers is the first step to becoming a great travel agent. I’ve been teaching travel agents for years and I know what it takes to become successful. Over time, of course, you will have to go to product training but it’s not that important right now. You first need to learn about marketing, advertising, and networking.
Unless you learn the secrets to becoming not just a travel agent, but a successful entrepreneur, you will not succeed. You need to learn how to compete against the online booking engines, how to gain your clients’ trust and define what it means to be a travel agent.
In the courses I teach, I meet agents who are new to the business and who are so excited about traveling to product training and eager to go on FAM trips. You will! But right now, in order to be successful, you need to focus on generating leads, building a thriving business, using social media and creating brand recognition for yourself.
FAM trips are great because you will learn about the best places to refer your clients to, and product sales training is a unique way of getting to learn about what’s out there. But, like our surgeon, you need to get your clients first. Then, you can build from there.

Watch Travel Expert Tammy Levent on Tampabay’s Morning Blend weekly

March 1, 2017
Introduction to Elite Travel / Tammy Levent and Back roads to Greece

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Expo de Turismo International (ETI), Part 2: It Wasn’t Just about Puerto Rico

“The travel industry will double in the next decade, making it the second largest industry in the world, exceeded only by agriculture,” said Bill Todd, author of “Increase Sales Now,” to 400 travel agents at ETI, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s annual conference. “You couldn’t have picked a better career path.”

As noted in ETI, Part 1, this was an unusually agent-oriented Caribbean meeting. In addition to site inspections, it offered dozens of seminars for agents featuring A-list speakers. For example:

  • Superstar agent Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel, shared valuable advice on how to grow a business via strategic relationships. CD Weddings’ Chezelle Rodriguez taught attendees how to use social media to generate leads.
  • Speakers who aren’t travel agents courted them. Norwegian Cruise Line v.p. Frank Medina invited attendees to take NCL FAMs, because “agents are the best sales people we have—and your sales will triple if you familiarize yourself with the product.” Matt Cooper, chief marketing officer for the Caribbean Hotel & Travel Association, announced that caribbeantravel.com is building a new travel agent portal. Bahamas Minister of Tourism Obediah Hercules said, “33 percent of our business now comes from travel agents. “We love you!” And Trevor Sadler, CEO of InterCaribbean Airways, reminded everyone that his airline pays commissions.
  • Greg Furman, chairman of The Luxury Travel Council and an expert on out-of-the-box sales, explained how to keep a “hug your customers” book: “Know your clients’ kids birthdays, their charities, their bonus cycles,” he said. He also recommended partnerships with suppliers of other luxury goods and services. “Go to the best restaurant or the Mercedes dealership in your area, and tell them, ‘We have similar clients. Let’s do something together.’”
  • Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association, reported that 32 percent of American grandparents took a trip with grandchildren in 2015, 31 percent of leisure travel is multigenerational, and 12 million single parents are being underserved by the travel industry. Family travel, he said, is a growth industry. However, it’s been documented that families are cautious travelers, so agents must be prepared to discuss affordability, value, food, safety, and health.
  • Among the other seminars (on selling wellness, romance, and LGBT travel, and even competing islands), the presentation by Simons Chase, editor of Cuba Journal, was especially timely. Among the takeaways: Although Cuba is changing—and quickly—it remains so hard to transfer money and enforce contracts that agents should still book through people-to-people tour operators.

Registration for ETI 2017 will open this winter. For more information, visit internationaltourismexpo.com. ETI 2016 cost agents $79 through April 8, including tours, sessions, meals, and parties. Participating hotels offered room discounts. For more on how ETI had addressed travel agents, click here, to read part 1 of our coverage.

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