Want to be an agency front-runner? Hire motivated and educated staff

Want to be an agency front-runner? Hire motivated and educated staff

VANCOUVER — A Virtuoso survey of what traits set apart top producing agencies found they employed individuals who were keenly interested in the travel business and their clients, and motivated to increase their travel and sales knowledge and focus on selling luxury product.

Terrie Hansen, CTE, Virtuoso’s Senior VP of Marketing, speaking at the organization’s conference in Vancouver, said these agencies also had consistency and longevity in the market place. The survey showed those at the top had 40 years in business, had an average of 19 travel advisers, and 72% had been in one location.

Successful agencies also have a plan. “The great agency has a strategy for success,” she said, adding that these agencies also pursue the luxury or high-end market, attempt to increase staff knowledge of luxury product and have a 90% attendance rate at Virtuoso forms and conferences. “Forty-five per cent are on Virtuoso committees,” she said, adding that is twice the normal rate for agency participation in the industry.

That Virtuoso is promoting luxury sales is not surprising. After all it’s a network of worldwide agencies that promote luxury travel. It has 30 Canadian agencies on board, out of 780 worldwide in 45 countries, with China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan added in 2017. It has 15,238 advisors worldwide with 55% of the increase coming from member agencies. There was a 33% overall increase in new advisors.

It also has a global network of 1,700 preferred partners (hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, and more), with more than 40 in Canada. The focus is on leisure, not corporate, travel. The organization’s network sales figures were $21.2 billion last year, up 37% from the previous year.

Hansen also said that luxury clients are willing to pay up to $900 a night for a vacation that provides an experience and it can result in sales that can, on average, yield 24% of an agency’s business.

Much of how the agency goes after the market will depend on attitude and the ability to provide the client with special knowledge and experiences, she said, adding that this is a service that Virtuoso can provide with its network of global advisers. While preferred suppliers can provide product, it is the advisers – in a global network – that can help provide that additional on-site information on preferences that makes an experience unique.

The agencies that are at the top are also savvy when it comes to marketing and getting their agency name and specialized knowledge to the consumer. “There is the saying – if you are not marketing to the client, someone else is,” she said, adding that Virtuoso has marketing offerings to help agencies.

The top producing agencies also have a strong digital presence, Hansen said. Consumers naturally go online looking for product and will often book simple reservations. Luxury travellers want more. They are looking for expertise and product that provide an experience. They rely upon travel agents to be able demonstrate the expertise in the field and the ability to find the right product.

The successful agencies, she said, also deliberately focus on Virtuoso’s preferred suppliers to help provide that experience.

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