What happens when you have a true specialty?

What happens when you have a true specialty?

If you’re like a lot of independent travel advisors, you know that it pays to specialize.

Rather than hopping from selling an all inclusive in Mexico to an FIT in Japan to an escorted tour of Egypt, you focus your time, talents, and energies on one style of travel.

And, it’s probably the type of travel or a destination that you love.

So how do you become a specialist?

I spoke recently with Erika Gal, one of Vision Travel’s ITAs based in Ancaster, ON. Hungarian-born and with over 30 years in the industry, Erika has a passion for river cruising – and it shows. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

When did you get interested in river cruising?

“Even before I came to Canada, I had river cruised in Europe a few times, long before we have the brands we have now. I realized it was a great way to travel and decided to promote it, even though no one in Canada had even really heard of it!”

How much of your business is river cruising?

“About 70 percent. I continue to keep this number as high as possible by staying focused on river cruising sales. I stay up to date with all new products, sailings, and offers.”

You are a big fan of AmaWaterways – why that brand?

“Because of my interest in river cruising, when they launched in North America, I decided to promote them. The field of river cruising has grown by leaps and bounds since then, but Ama continues to have my loyalty because I believe they absolutely have the best crews on the rivers. Their friendliness and warm welcomes are always genuine; you just know that’s not ‘trained’.

If you’re like a lot of independent travel advisors, you know that it pays to specialize.

Erika Gal

“The points of differentiation between river cruise brands can be very small (ports of call, shore excursions, dining, and entertainment options). I think Ama has been very smart to focus on fantastic crews across the board.”

Have you cruised a lot with them?

“Six times, and I’ve always found the service consistent.”

Have you experienced any other river cruise lines?

“Yes, I have also sailed with some of their competitors. When you support one brand it’s very important to experience the competition so you can explain the differences, with confidence, to your clients.

“I always return to Ama, not only for their stellar service but because they are truly the innovators in this sector. From wellness (for example, free use of bikes), their chef’s table, and even twin balcony staterooms. They are always first.”

By putting your buying power mainly ‘in one basket’ so to speak, how has that worked for you?

“It means I can speak with more authority and close the sale faster because I am extremely familiar with the product. Also, as Ama enjoys a great repeat factor, I can be even more efficient when the client comes back to book their next cruise.

“Of course, the loyalty works both ways: because I am such a strong supporter of Ama I was delighted to be invited to speak on their 20th Anniversary video (you can see me at 1:11)  which was both an honour and an endorsement of my credibility.”