Following the Leader


Dear Travel Agents,

Do you know any people who are successful in the areas you are focused on? Do you wonder how they got to that place?

Well, many of them love to share their success. Some are even willing to mentor others, simply because it is a way to give back to the community and/or because they believe that life is not a competition, but a way to build each other up, so we can all cheer and be happy together. Why?

Why does anyone want to help and mentor you for free? What do they have to gain?  I can’t tell you everyone’s reasons, but I can tell you about my own.  I feel very blessed. I built my own success and I believe in helping others. It makes me feel better about myself. I smile every time a travel agent or a tour operator grows and shares with me how well they are doing. How much my words, blogs and even mentoring has helped them move forward.

When I share my ideas with someone, I explain why, and what my ideas are based on – not just, “do as I say.”  I enjoy explaining the reasons for and consequences of each action. That saves people many headaches, and many times, falling flat and losing clients and money.

What intrigues me is when people are told what not to do in business, basic ideas to avoid mistakes, and I see them doing these things anyway.  It’s rather like telling someone to hold onto the handrail of a staircase when it is raining to avoid a fall, and then them falling. That person not only avoided the advice but also decided to go two steps at a time, and then they post on social media how life is unfair because they ended up getting some stitches.

Life is what you make it, and even better when you have people cheering for you. Hold on the handrail, take one step at a time, and think before you jump.

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Dealing With a Group…Abroad


Dear Travel Agents,

How fun it is to travel with a group of people! Many travel agents love doing this for many different reasons.

Reasons aside, let’s address creating a stress-free time abroad. As I mentioned last week in my previous blog, travel and life are beautiful, fun, but never perfect.

  • As soon as you receive the emergency phone number for contact abroad (while still in your own country) call that number to make sure it is correct and that someone, a real person who speaks English or another language you are fluent in, answers it. Tell the person when you will be arriving and ask how many people answer that number, and if all speak fluent English. Ask if that number works 24/7, or if there is another number to call just in case.
  • If the bus or transfer is not at the airport when you and your group arrive, call the emergency number that you have already tested before leaving your country. KEEP YOUR COOL AND KEEP SMILING. Once the person arrives, use some humor and ask why she/he was not there when you arrived.
  • What to do if the hotel does not have your reservation? The person doing the transfer and/or the tour guide is supposed to do the check in. Do not let that person leave you and your group before they do the check in for all, and give you the information for the next day.
  • In case the rooms in the hotel are not adequate for any of your guests in the group, first make sure that expectations were addressed before coming to the country. A 5-star hotel in the US is different than a 5-star hotel in a third-world country. If this is not the case, and the room is really not adequate to standard, SMILE, speak nicely to the front desk AND IF NEEDED, talk to the manager. If this does not work, call the emergency number and ask them to deal with the hotel. CONTINUE SMILING!
  • In case the tour guide is late in arriving: SMILE, take the tour guide to the side and with humor, tell him/her how excited the whole group is and that they don’t want to miss a thing, so time is important for all members of the group. KEEP SMILING!
  • If some people in the group cause the whole group to be late, here you have choices. You can ask the tour guide to stick to the time table and ask the whole group to be on time. You, the tour organizer, can call the delayers or speak to them on the side. Humor and a smile will go a long way with that!
  • In case the driver gets a flat tire – that is too bad. Call the emergency number, but I am sure the driver and the tour guide will have already done that. Be patient. No one is at fault, and the group will look to you for your behavior. SMILE and explain that flat tires happen, and suggest something creative to do with this time instead of complaining.
  • If some people are cold and others are hot on the bus, ask all who are cold to raise their hands (or hot). Ask all who are cold to move to the front of the bus and all who are hot to move to the back and have the back of the bus turn the air conditioner on! SMILE!
  • If anyone in the group does not eat what is being served or is allergic to that food, talk to the tour guide. If that doesn’t help, ask with a SMILE to speak with the waiter or the chef and see what can be provided for that person. Remember, some countries do not have gluten free bread or lactose free items. Humor will help you with both your traveler, and with the people of the country.
  • Sometimes, one of the “highlights” of the trip is closed. That can happen; perhaps a President of a country is there for a visit and an important site must be closed to the pubic. As the organizer, find out what happened and with humor and a smile, tell your group that like in life, things happen that we don’t have any control over. Try to find another “highlight“ and make the best of it.

I am sure you have other situations to share. Please feel free to do so, or ask for more of my ideas.

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Smile! It is travel time!

drinks-2578446_960_720Dear Travel Agents,

I now want to talk to travel agents who plan travel with groups of people.

For those with lots of experience with this, we all know that when we first offer a date and a destination it seems so easy to gather a big group. Everyone is so excited about the destination and/or the date. Everyone says, “COUNT ON ME!”

Yes, right! LOL!

The next step is collecting the money. Suddenly the group of excited people becomes much smaller! “I thought you said two years from now.” And another person says, “I just heard from a friend of a friend of my cousin that the destination is not safe!” We could all write a book as thick as the Bible full of excuses.

Finally, we’ve gathered a group and start the planning. If we all live in the same town, it is fun to get together for the planning. Maybe go to a restaurant with food that is typical of the destination and get a person who will teach us all about the itinerary, and answer questions about packing and how to travel abroad. Meeting the group is fun, and helps to build camaraderie, especially if some people will be rooming together.

As the date of the trip approaches, many people get excited and happy, but some will get anxious. Anxiety can bring more questions for the organizer. Smile, take deep breaths and answer all of their questions. If the questions seem silly, send them a link so they can read more and learn. Reading and learning helps with anxiety because the person will be spending time and focusing on something other than his/her own anxiety.

Once traveling starts, remember that travel and life are not perfect, so learn how to deal with the unexpected. Again, take deep breaths, smile and remember that everything can be solved. Everyone will be watching you, because you are the organizer. Keep a smile on your face and remember that joking is always the best way to deal with people. People respond better to happy people.

In my next blog I will write a list of things that could possibly go wrong, and how to deal with them. But always remember: NO ONE WANTS TO DEAL WITH A SOUR FACED PERSON, SO KEEP SMILING!

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Asking for a Budget


Dear Travel Agents,

I have been working and mentoring travel agents for over 26 years, and I know that for many of them, it can be very uncomfortable to ask about a budget in order to prepare an itinerary.

First of all, the word “Budget” sounds cheap or poor or discounted, as if using a coupon. But actually, even the richest people have a budget in mind when spending money or purchasing anything.

Imagine going to buy a purse. Some people go to Target and have a budget of $100. Others who are more affluent can go to Hermès and still have a budget of $5,000, so the Birkin for $15,000 will not be a choice. Does it mean they are cheap? No, it is simply a matter of priorities.

For example, if someone who is well-dressed comes into Hermès and I am their salesperson, I should first ask what they are looking for when they ask me for a purse instead of offering a Birkin and expecting the customer to buy it so I can make the commission.

The same thing happens in travel. Please do not ASSUME, but EDUCATE.  Ask if they have a budget and if they say NO, ask questions to better learn what they are looking for, and what their taste is before you spend time working on an itinerary that could end up being a waste of time for everyone. Avoid the situation that often happens when you later learn the prospective client has gone to someone else.

There is much more to be discussed about budgets. Feel free to pick my brain!

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