Working from home can be fulfilling, but also isolating. Host agency events provide a crucial opportunity for networking and training. TravelOnly recently hosted its East Coast associates, along with potential clients, at the Halifax Cruise-a-thon, combining a live training seminar with Celebrity, Carnival, Crystal and Uniworld cruise lines, including pre-booked, on-board ship inspections, with peer-to-peer outreach from three of TravelOnly’s leading agents: Pat Probert, Kelly Neonakis-Morash and Reese Morash.
Also on hand, Sinthia Gawlak, TravelOnly’s VP, Associate Relations & Business Development hosted one-on-one information sessions with potential agents, and four new recruits will join the TravelOnly team after learning about the advantages of running their own TravelOnly business.
The family-owned, Canadian-based travel marketing organization now has more than 625 home-based agents.
Sphere recently caught up with Kelly Neonakis-Morash, TravelOnly Groups & Destination Wedding Specialist, based in Dartmouth, NS, to talk about Halifax Cruise-a-thon and the direction of the home-based industry’s growth.
Sphere: Has TravelOnly made increased outreach with Associates a priority now that marketing and visibility from other host agencies has ramped up competition in the home-based industry?
Neonakis-Morash: “Yes! We are identifying ‘mentors’ in various regions of Canada to spearhead training and team-building initiatives throughout the country. One of the complaints that you will hear from many home-based agents is that they feel isolated not being part of a larger in-office environment, but we are striving to ensure that our mentors reach out to any new and existing agents in their area to welcome them to the company and let them know that they are now part of a much larger support group.
“These seasoned agents will ensure that all agents in their area are always made aware of any supplier training, cruise inspections, product launches and more that will help them build not only their product knowledge, but the camaraderie that we feel boosts the success of all agents involved. We believe that we are only as strong as our weakest link so ensuring that our agents have access to all of the necessary tools for success as well as the genuine support and friendship from fellow agents really is a game changer.”
Sphere: What sort of turnout did you see for the live training seminar and consumer evening?
Neonakis-Morash: “We had a great turnout! Over 75 guests in the room despite the rainy weather! There have been several cruise groups booked since the event as well as individual cruise bookings and an increased interest in cruising from both the clients in attendance and the agents.”
Sphere: Why makes cruises such a great product for home-based agents to sell?
Neonakis-Morash: “Cruising is one sector of travel that can seem overwhelming to clients when they are trying to decide not only on the cruise line – but the ship, itinerary, cabin type and location. Home-based agents are constantly having to compete with the online companies and cruise booking remains one area that is best maneuvered by an experienced agent.
“He or she can advise on all aspects of the vacation – from choosing the right itinerary/cruise line to identifying where the best cabins are located onboard. Additionally, a good agent will ensure that clients receive any promotions that are offered by the line – even if these promos come out after the initial booking. No online agency will take the time to do that and we all want not only the very best vacation experience, but of course the best value for our hard-earned vacation dollars.”
Sphere: TravelOnly has been around for 40 years and has no doubt seen many changes in the home-based industry, and a lot of different business models. Is the Canadian home-based industry on the right path; do you have any concerns?
Neonakis-Morash: “I believe that the home-based industry is the way of the future. The home-based agent can come to you wherever you prefer – a coffee shop, at your place of work, at their own home office or any place that feels comfortable to you – and they will make themselves available whenever you are available, unlike most storefronts.
“The personal service clients receive from a home-based agent is something that is missing with any of the online sites. Repeat and referral business is the foundation of a home-based agent’s success – and this can only come from having satisfied, well-informed clients. A vacation should be a treat – a respite from the fast-paced world that we all live in on a daily basis – and the home-based agent works to take the stress and planning involved away to enable clients to focus only on the experience. Who wants to spend hours in front of a computer researching different websites when we are in front of computer at work all day?
“A good home-based agent will treat clients like family to ensure that every aspect of their vacation – from first meeting until the moment they arrive home safely with wonderful memories – are handled seamlessly and with both professionalism and that personal touch so elusive in today’s world.”
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This article appears in Sphere, Travelweek’s monthly e-newsletter for home-based agents.
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