Back in 2005 Lois Barbour launched her business like so many home-based agents do: by booking trips for friends and colleagues.
Now just over 10 years later Travel Time – TPI Inc. makes annual appearances on numerous top producing agency lists and Barbour – who is a Certified Travel Counsellor, an Elite Cruise Counsellor, and a Destination Wedding Specialist – is also the only Newfoundland travel advisor who has achieved membership in the exclusive Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.
Most recently Travel Time – TPI was named one of the ‘Best of the Best Agencies, Worldwide’ and the ‘Top Butler Suite Travel Agency, Atlantic Canada’ at the Sandals Travel Agency Recognition (S.T.A.R.) Awards.
Barbour also received a new honour at the S.T.A.R. Awards ceremony: the inaugural ‘CEO’s Excellent in Social Media Award, Worldwide’.
Travel Time – TPI’s Facebook page is chock-a-block with travel news, product updates, promotions and fun and inspirational travel-themed pictures. The posts go up daily.
One post showing Florida package deals with Transat Holidays got an inquiry from a client. Within 20 minutes, Travel Time – TPI had posted a response with a promise to follow up.
Travel Time – TPI also posts details about its Destination Wedding consumer information nights, including a Jan. 18 event that got a turnout despite a snowstorm. Barbour and her staff are also active on Twitter.
Sphere caught up with Barbour recently for this edition of Making it Work.
Sphere: How did you get started and what led to your focus on destination weddings, and what percentage of your business are destination weddings now?
Barbour: “I purchased a franchise with Travel Professionals Intl (TPI) in 2005 and built my business over the first five years to the point that I decided to take an early retirement from my 25-year nursing career to focus on it full-time.
“In the first couple of years I had destination wedding inquiries from nursing colleagues, and did them successfully, and found that I quite liked it!
“I think my background in nursing surprisingly helped me, as I was still dealing with people hopes and dreams, but in a happier sense than through illness!
“I would say that over 75% of my business currently is destination weddings. I get inquiries from across Canada and even in U.S. based on what they see and read about us online.”
Sphere: So many agents know they should be doing more on social media, but either don’t know how or aren’t sure what to do. Did you have to push yourself to get started with social media?
Barbour: “No, it came naturally. The need for social connection is there, and living in a household with three young adults, it was around me all the time so it was easy to adapt to the thought processes to make it work for me. My challenge was to learn to use the tools effectively.”
Sphere: Which social media outlets do you focus your energies on and why?
Barbour: “I do Facebook and Twitter. I have accounts on other platforms, but I feel it is better to do the ones that you can focus on, and do well to bring a consistent message.”
Sphere: Many agents are wary of looking like they’re selling too hard on social media. Is that a concern for you as well?
Barbour: “No, we do not use it to sell, as a general rule. It is meant to create engagement, and start a conversation. Many of our sales and even weddings start with someone liking or sharing our content, or sending us a private message.”
Sphere: Do you have an example of how your social media outreach has boosted your business?
Barbour: “I started a private group for Destination Wedding Brides from Canada which encourages them to share content, and allows me or my team to answer questions, or clarify situations they post about.
“The group is growing, and if someone we haven’t been working with joins, they quickly can understand the value we bring to the equation for them, and the many times end up wanting to work with us.
“Previous or current brides are always willing to share content for promotions or sessions that we are offering, so that engagement brings results.
“Recently a post about a Destination Wedding ‘How-To’ Session received over 80 Likes, Shares, and tagging of engaged couples in a contest which helped us get the word out there, and fill our available space!”