PHOTO: Businesses deal with the ups and downs all the time; dealing with the downs is essential. (photo via Flickr/Ken Teegardin)
As the saying goes, what goes up must come down. That’s true no matter what business you’re in but, for travel agents, a downturn in business can be disconcerting especially to agents who are in business for themselves.
However, all is not lost when business slows. In fact, it’s just a natural part of the business cycle. You have to learn how to weather the storm as well as the sunny days, something Funjet Vacations, part of The Mark Travel Corp., family, has done so well.
Savvy travel professionals have learned how to turn slow times into good times by following these seven tips:
Double down. When business slows, look first where you can trim expenses and tighten your belt. Whether that means renegotiating contracts such as those with your landlord or outside vendors, or streamlining internal processes to realize greater efficiencies, now’s the time to double down on your outlay.
Reach out. Business might be slower, but that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, a downturn gives you the chance to reach out to clients and remind them that not only is travel one of life’s greatest pleasures, but of the value you bring to the travel equation.
Take stock. Take advantage of the downturn to take stock, catch up on projects that need completing and plan for how your agency will handle the business when it inevitably goes back up.
Hit the books. Make the most of the fact that things aren’t as hectic in your agency to catch up on the latest product and destination offerings your suppliers have on offer. Ask about attending training sessions or, if your agency is large enough, ask your sales rep to come by and provide some on-site training. Better still, take this time to do what you advise your clients to do—hit the road and explore the wide world.
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Market yourself. Other agencies might be cutting back on their advertising and marketing budgets as a short-term fix, but you aren’t like other agencies. You know a downturn is the time to draw attention to your agency. Look for ways to stand out–consider a print advertising campaign in strategic markets and publications or a targeted e-newsletter. Personal notes make for a nice touch, as well. Mark Travel Co. offers its agents access to Creative Connection, a browser-based tool that helps agents create personalized advertising content and vacation recommendations for their customers at the 1:1 level.
Stay the course. A downturn is not the time to get jiggy. Stick to tried-and-true vendors and destinations that you know your clients will love.
Add staff. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a downturn can be the perfect time to add to your staff as independent contractors may be looking for greater stability in their work life.
Ask what’s available. Check with your host agency to see what resources might be available. Mark Travel Co., for example, offers its home-based agents a nifty option–a series of engagement tools that let them email vacation quotes, including excursions and other experience-based parts of their trip, straight from the booking engine to their clients in real-time.