TORONTO — It’s a familiar routine, and so well-intentioned. On January 1, we set New Year’s resolutions with optimism and confidence. After a few days, or maybe a few weeks, most of those resolutions have fallen by the wayside.
And it’s not just the personal resolutions – the vows to get in shape, or to cut back on the after-work drinks – that can be hard to maintain. It’s business goals too.
Especially right now, as busy travel advisors work around the clock to book clients eager to finally get away – not to mention rebooking clients after cancellations – many agents have made promises to themselves to keep clear boundaries between work time and home time, only to have those boundaries crossed again and again.
That got us wondering if there’s anyone out there with advice on resolutions for travel agents, that are both effective and do-able. Turns out, there is. And no matter what the calendar tells you, it’s not too late.
We spoke with several travel agents too, to find out their New Year’s resolutions for their travel agencies and their careers, and how those resolutions are coming along.
“STOP TRYING TO BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE”
Marketing expert, author and performance strategist Geraldine Ree is a big believer in New Year’s resolutions.
“I’ve always been a big goal setter,” she tells Travelweek. “Early on in my career I learned how inspiring a big goal can be. In my recent book ‘10X My Travel Business, 10 Times Better in Half the Time’, I stress that better always comes before bigger. 10X is not about working harder. It’s about getting better. You need better marketing strategies, better sales skills and a better approach to the work.”
Ree agrees that resolutions for work goals are just as important as personal goals. Why? “New Year’s resolutions are an important ritual for organizations as an opportunity to have a fresh start. Turning over the calendar, particularly at New Year’s, represents letting go of what’s not working, to make room for something new,” she says.
The travel industry is certainly ready to turn the calendar on the pandemic years, and 2023 is a fresh start for so many. Business is booming.
Ree has three tips for agents looking to set effective and do-able goals for 2023.
“First, decide on your ideal target market. Stop trying to be all things to all people. Find YOUR people, and become indispensable to them,” she says.
“Second, skill up in customer service and sales. A year from now, how will you be indispensable to those you serve? How will you create a steady stream of high value customers?
“Third, positioning. Decide what you want to be known for and by whom. Develop a strong personal and professional brand.”
The travel industry, especially retail travel, is at an important turning point, and Ree urges agents to put their well-thought out plans into action. “This is the year for travel advisors to build the business they want – really,” she says.
WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER
Many travel agents Travelweek spoke with said that working smarter, not harder, was one of their key goals for 2023.
Cambridge, ON-based travel advisor Caitlin Lajeunesse, part of the Independent by Flight Centre network, said the work-smart mantra is serving her well so far in 2023. It’s a goal that dovetails well with her other two resolutions: “Continue to be consistent with charging fees for the service I provide. And develop my team and delegate.” We asked her how it’s coming along. “Very well! My fee structure is in place. My team members are busy booking, and I am focusing on my niche of premium beach vacations.”
Lesley Keyter, CEO and founder of Calgary-based The Travel Lady Agency, is also onboard with working smarter, not harder for 2023 – and as she puts it, be fussy about the enquiries her agency takes on. “We are having to be very strict about what enquiries we take. We have already put out there that we do not do all-inclusives, air only or North America travel,” she says.
Keyter adds that part of that process includes examining every new enquiry very, very carefully. “We use Client Base as our CRM, and when we get an enquiry, we log that enquiry and create a profile for the customer. It is very interesting to go back over these profiles and see how many enquiries have been made by one particular person and how many were actually closed. This is a great way of rooting out tire-kickers. We decided that we have to be really strict with how we use our time and have to look at what return there could be from every enquiry.”
She’s also made a commitment to increasing her agency’s admin team. “They do things like document checking, invoice checking, schedule changes, filing and all those other tasks that many agents have to do for themselves. My goal has always been to free up the agents to do what they do best – sell. With the surge in travel enquiries we are inundated and so it is my job to ensure that when we take a new enquiry we are able to properly service that customer.”
Meanwhile Paulette Soloman, owner of The Travel Store in Charlottetown, PE, says her resolution is figuring out how to work ‘on’ her travel agency business, rather than ‘in’ it. “It’s a common problem for small business owners, and certainly in the travel agency world this has been true as we struggle with industry-wide human resource shortages,” says Soloman. How’s it going so far? Soloman shares the honest truth, one that many travel advisors can relate to. “Truthfully I am doing exactly the opposite of this right now as it is our busy season, but I’m having fun with it and consider every day and every task an important learning experience. All of these will help me toward my resolution eventually!”
“SET A BUNCH OF MINI-GOALS”
Joelle Goldman, who recently wrote a New Year’s resolutions column for Sphere, Travelweek’s e-newsletter for home-based agents, says “it’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day that we can forget to work on our business instead of in our business. It’s always a great idea to step back and evaluate where you are and where you want to be, no matter the time of year. This is a great opportunity to get together with your team and discuss both short-term and long-term goals.”
Goldman, who is VP, Host Services for Direct Travel in North America, which includes its Canadian leisure division Vision Travel, has a few can-do resolutions for agents. “Re-evaluate and increase your service fees. Set quarterly goals. Continue to develop your niche: take some training and professional development, subscribe to publications, attend a few conferences, and add to your contact list. Finally, review your client list. If they’re not working for you, transition them to a better-suited advisor.”
This article ran in the Jan. 26, 2023 issue of Travelweek. For the full story click here.