Travel Time – TPI owner Lois Barbour made her first trip to Sandals Resorts in 2007. “I was quickly convinced that it was a company that ensured a quality experience with as much luxury as anyone could ask for,” said Barbour.
Just about 10 years later Barbour received the Sandals Top Sales Award 2016, in recognition of her top sales amongst all travel agents in Canada. Barbour was chosen from 15 other Canadian travel agencies who had earned their status in the Sandals STAR Awards based on annual sales with Sandals.
Other accolades include: Top Agency (Atlantic Canada); Top Wedding Sales (Canada); Top Butler Elite Travel Agency (Atlantic Canada); Best of the Best Agency (Canada); Chairman’s Award 2016; and Chairman’s Royal Club 2017. She’s been a member of the Chairman’s Royal Club since its inception and again for 2016.
Her favourite resorts for destination weddings? Sandals South Coast and Sandals Ochi. The couple pictured above, Della and Travis, are Barbour’s clients, married at Sandals South Coast last May.
Asked when her Sandals Resorts sales really started to take off, Barbour says that after her first visit to Sandals in 2007, she immediately started spreading the word and recommending Sandals to anybody who had questions about resorts. “I believe in the product and I personally enjoy the experience.”
Barbour says bridal shows have been a great business decision. “Setting up a Sandals display complete with a Sandals wrapped vehicle draws attention and anyone considering a destination wedding gravitates to our display.”
Through a draw Barbour and her team collect some contact information, “and we stay in touch with the brides-to-be. These brides grow to trust our information and authority so logically we are their first thought when they want to take the next step in the process to book their destination wedding.”
One of her own top picks for weddings, Sandals South Coast (formerly Sandals Whitehouse), has been a strong choice with clients. “We love the fact that for groups, even the entry level rooms all have an ocean view, which is important. Seeing the ocean is one of the factors that influence couples to have their weddings down south many times, so being able to offer that – even if their guests are not paying for upgrades – is a huge benefit.”
Sandals Ochi Beach Resort is also a strong contender with Barbour’s clientele because of the price point. “Guests get to enjoy all of the wonderful amenities and inclusions from Sandals, and the price point is competitive with resorts that offer much less inclusions by comparison. Plus the couple gets to plan their wedding with the most organized team of wedding professionals available.”
Sandals’ Butler Service is a clear choice, she adds. “Being able to get ready for their big day, and also for the days of celebration afterwards with the services of a Butler enables the couple to be the VIPs they really are for this occasion. Within the Butler categories there is still lots of choice and price points, plus the option to receive a free upgrade when booking 12 rooms in their group is a huge benefit. If they do not qualify on their own due to the size of the group, we are usually able to add a few rooms to the group booking to help them qualify.”
Asked about the most satisfying Sandals wedding she’s ever booked, Barbour has a quick answer. It was a 35 room booking to Sandals Whitehouse, the largest wedding group to travel from Canada in 2016. The booking was a major contributing factor to Travel Time – TPI being awarded the top Destination Wedding Travel Agency for Sandals Resorts in Canada. “There were other groups during the year, but we feel that group was largely instrumental in helping us to achieve the status to be awarded this honor, so that would have to be the more satisfying achievement to date. And it’s not about the money. Of course being compensated is important, but not nearly as important as helping these couples and all their guests enjoy this memorable occasion.”
Selling Sandals Resorts is a long education in the fine art of upselling, something Barbour knows all too well. Asked what selling Sandals Resorts has taught her about upselling, she says: “That the guests are not buying from my pocketbook! And that you can never pre-judge what it is they will want, so offer them the best!”
For any trip for a couple, no matter what they ask for, Barbour always, always suggests Sandals Resorts, and then gives at least a small bit of information on the product. “Even if they do not choose Sandals Resorts on that trip, for future trips it will be something for which the seed has been planted, and they often end up eventually wanting to see what Sandals Resorts are all about.”
Barbour says she likes the new modern look Sandals Resorts has adopted for its upgrades and new resorts. The sleek white rooms are a big change from the mahogany furnishings and more traditional colours Sandals Resorts is typically known for. But first impressions are important, says Barbour. Especially for clients who are comparison shoppers.
“While at the end of the stay the modern look may not seem as important anymore, it is the direction many other chains have gone, and before the stay has been experienced the look they see in photos is what they are comparing it to. So the appeal to the target market needs to be there in order to open the conversation,” she says.
“An updated state-of-the-art bathroom is the defining factor in a great room in my opinion, so any move to make that the norm makes it even easier to sell.”
This article was originally featured in the Travel Professional, Weddings edition. To see the digital edition, click here.
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