After 45 years in the travel business, who better to ask for tricks of the trade than TravelOnly? The family-owned, Canada-wide, home-based agency has gained a solid reputation for supporting their agents and building an extensive – and impressive – list of supplier partners.
In this edition of Friday Five, we sit down with Ian Elliott, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, to learn how the company has evolved, its secret to success, and what agents can do to grow and thrive their own business.
1. Can you talk about how TravelOnly has grown and evolved over the past 45 years, both in terms of agent/supplier numbers and company goals?
When TravelOnly originated in Sept 1974 as Luciani World Travel, it was built as a family business within the community of Brantford, Ontario. Chairman Patrick Luciani started the company as the sole agent within a storefront but soon recognized an incredible opportunity within the industry. With the help of his wife Ann Luciani and their son Gregory, they built a home-based agency with almost 650 agents across Canada.
As the company grew, the Lucianis knew that strong partnerships with suppliers was critical to their success and consider many of their preferred partners as part of the TravelOnly family.
In my role, my goal is for our advisors to sell preferred partners as much as possible (and yes with the large number of advisors that can sometimes feel like herding cats), but we help focus their sales and marketing activities by offering exclusive incentives, marketing collateral and customized training with our preferred partners. This focused approach on selling preferred partners helps our advisors recognize the immense value of our preferred supplier network and the support they can provide to them and their clients.
2. What would you attribute the company’s success to?
At the end of the day this company’s success is built on the reputation of our founders, the Lucianis, and the tremendous expertise of our travel advisors and preferred partners. When you speak to a longstanding TravelOnly advisor there is a sense of family and inclusiveness that you don’t get in many large organizations. At TravelOnly we will do whatever we can to help both our travel advisors and preferred partners grow their businesses.
Giving back is a common theme in our company – that includes to our advisors, our clients and the many countries we are fortunate to travel to every year. In the travel industry we have the opportunity to be positive roles models and global ambassadors to the countries we visit. The more you give, the more success just naturally returns to you. Call it good corporate citizen karma.
3. Would you say a travel agent’s job is becoming easier or harder today? And how does TravelOnly help?
I personally believe that if we compare the job of an agent today to one before the Internet age that the job has become simultaneously more difficult due to online competition but at the same time easier due to the technology and research tools available at your fingertips. So there is a trade-off: an agent can now be much more efficient in their bookings but it comes at the expense of margin degradation and competition.
With that said, at TravelOnly we help our travel advisors promote themselves as travel experts – they provide services that no online retailer can reasonably compete with. They differentiate on their ability to customize complex itineraries and provide a service that only an expert truly can.
As a member of Ensemble Travel Group, our travel advisors gain a competitive edge with exclusive amenities and value that other agencies cannot, while our preferred partners often provide TravelOnly exclusives, thanks to our longstanding relationship and buying power.
In addition to these consumer incentives, TravelOnly provides a host of marketing and selling tools including a business-to-consumer website, ready-made digital marketing that is delivered directly to our TravelOnly clients and yearly conferences and cruise symposiums to help our advisors network and learn from a host of preferred partners and experts.
4. What tips would you give agents whose businesses have become stagnant? Or agents who’ve lost their passion to sell?
Because I’m a marketer, the two most important things I tell agents that if they have reached a sales plateau they are most likely trying to sell the same things to the same people.
In order to grow your business you have to do two things: 1) Sell to NEW potential clients by growing your client database, and 2) Continuously market a variety of your services.
Often agents think that because they’ve sold something to a client ONCE that the client will remember them the next time they want to travel. No, you have to REMIND your clients that you are still in the business of selling travel – this extends to staying active on social media as well.
You need to show your clients that not only are you providing outstanding deals, incentives and travel experiences but you are inspiring them by posting photos, videos and testimonials – letting them first dream about their next vacation and then putting out that call to action, letting them know you can make that a reality. That’s what marketing is all about – letting your clients know that the lights are still on, that you are still here and that you are ready to help them the next time they want to travel. As a home-based agent how else can you show your clients that you are “open for business” unless you are marketing to them?
5. What’s new for TravelOnly in 2019?
Wow, there is so much new with TravelOnly in 2019 that it keeps us all up at night – but for all of the right reasons! This year as we approach our 45th anniversary we are getting ready to celebrate in style with our largest national conference to date in one of the most exciting cities in the world – Las Vegas!
But before we gear up for that four-day event in September 2019, we will be celebrating the very best of the best with our TravelOnly Achievement and Distinction Awards in January. This is our annual event where we recognize our top producers along with our preferred suppliers, culminating in the naming of our President’s Club – the very top selling advisors at TravelOnly. This year our travel advisors will have an opportunity to attend a travel showcase with our preferred partners as well as a tradeshow prior to the event.
In between these large celebrations we have a huge schedule of live training events, a new digital marketing curriculum as well as an enhanced suite of technology tools. Plus, we hope to grow the company with another 100 new travel advisors before we close out 2019 – definitely a huge year ahead!
For more information, go to travelonly.com.