How to be More Assertive

Dear Travel Agents/ Advisors,

People seem to be admired and respected when they are assertive. We all know there is a big difference between being assertive and being rude. I am sure we’ve all experienced both, and also that many of us have admired assertive people.

How can we be assertive, while not being rude, especially with our clients and prospective ones?

My advice, and also something I mentor travel agents/advisors about, is how to set boundaries. Imagine if you will, that everyone is in their terrible twos. People (like two-year-olds) will want to take from you as much as possible; not because they are bad people, but because they want to “see” if you will allow them to. So, like you would with a little 2-year-old, you will have to set boundaries without being rude (or spanking, LOL!)

For example, a client called while doing errands. For sure, she is distracted and I can hear all the noises in the background. I told her to please call me when it was a better time. She told me that it was a good time for her. I told her how much I valued OUR time (not mine, nor hers) and would appreciate her calling me back when she could be fully there for the call. Always – with a smile in my voice.

Another example: a client called asking if my price was better than she could get with another company. I asked her who referred her to my company, and she told me. I asked her if she trusted that person and she said she did. I asked her that if she needed someone to build a house for her whether she would line up people by price or by recommendation. I told her a good and reliable vacation was the same – it is not who is cheaper, but the best you can afford, especially through a good recommendation.

The most important thing is to speak assertively with a smile in your voice. Don’t be rude, don’t be demeaning, don’t be arrogant, don’t get into arguments. If the other person becomes defensive and raises their voice, lower yours. Speak with care and passion. Just be your true self. 

People will be attracted to you by your caring assertiveness, which definitely gives you more power than all the knowledge in any subject.

Assertiveness is not a gene all people are born with. Most need practice. I love to roleplay certain scenarios and practice with travel agents as a mentor. Feel free to ask me.

Cheers!

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Love Your Life

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

People are always asking us when the perfect time to travel is. There’s really no such thing as the perfect time to take a vacation, so the best answer is always ASAP!

Should we list the reasons why? Let’s do that! Listed below, and not in any order of priority:

Life happens
Celebrating an event
Rewarding yourself
Being kind to yourself when something sad happens
To learn about other cultures
Meeting new people
Seeing the world
Appreciating what we have
To learn more about ourselves
Giving thanks
Love, live and laugh
Treating family and friends to a nice vacation
Or, just because…

You could probably add even more reasons why people should travel now and not wait. Planning ahead for new trips keeps us young at heart and hopeful for better days ahead. It is a healthy and very positive mindset to bet on good health, happiness and to expect only reasons for celebration.

Travel can work better than a good anti-depressant medication without any side effects! It is a great stimulant without addiction (actually, traveling can be addicting, but it is a good addiction!) and gives us plenty of topics for fun and interesting conversations.

Having a Bucket List is very empowering and gives the traveler great reasons to make their lives more beautiful by creating fun expectations ahead.

Share this post or rewrite it in your own words, but make sure you spread the word that there is no such thing as the perfect time to take a vacation, so the best time is always ASAP!

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Have you Heard About Procrastination?

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

We all seem to know the meaning of the word “procrastination.” Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline. It could be further stated as: a habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences.

Raise your hand if you ever done this. A diet that will start after a holiday, exercise that will start after a vacation, a list of new behaviors as a New Year’s resolution, or even deciding to start charging service fees in the New Year.  

Something many people don’t know about me – I do have flaws, but procrastination is not one of them. Actually, I take pride in fighting the urge to procrastinate, and that is why I enjoy guiding people to be their best. I was a size 16 until 2004 (I was a big girl), and then I decided to cut out bread, pasta, basically all gluten and dairy from my diet.  I did it cold turkey! I lost weight and kept it off, and I am currently a size 4.  I lost over 80lbs.

I did the same 33 years ago with cigarettes. I started smoking at age 14 in Brazil, where it was cool to smoke. One January 1st, I gave it up. Honestly, now just the smell of a person who smoked hours before makes me nauseous. 

I exercise daily, even on an airplane, in an airport, on vacation and anytime. I need the endorphins, and I need to burn my stress through exercise (not strenuous exercise – I walk fast and do Pilates).

I believe in setting goals and having accomplishments, and the best way to do that is to fight procrastination. For those of you who still procrastinate, can you try it? Feel free to reach out to me. I am not a guru, but I love helping you!

Wishing you all success in all your endeavors!

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Live Life and Be Safe

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

What happens when the things that we enjoy having and wearing are not safe to display or enjoy anymore? How frustrating it is to see people getting robbed and/or beaten up just because they have something they worked hard to get.

My dear friend just got robbed and badly beaten up by a robber who demanded everything she had in her house. It was a very traumatic ordeal and the perpetrator got caught a few hours later. Unfortunately, her trauma didn’t disappear at the same time.

My husband has a love for expensive cars. He had a couple of Maseratis and his latest car was a red Aston Martin. He really loves his cars! When he heard that someone in our neighborhood got beaten up after parking a Ferrari on the street, he sold his cars right away and got a Tesla.  I asked him if he was sad, and he said his life is worth more than his “hobby.”

I am telling you this not to complain about life, even though it is very upsetting, but to look at the other side of life where we all can enjoy life safely: by traveling!

We don’t need fancy cars, jewelry, expensive clothes or anything to become a target. By traveling, we can go first class, business, coach or even by private jet and enjoy life safely (just don’t scream too loud on social media, LOL!) You can go to a Presidential suite, a suite, or any kind of room when you cruise. Go to a fancy or simple resort. Just enjoy life safely and don’t become a target by wearing fancy jewelry and advertising for a fancy brand!

Enjoy life, travel as much as your life desires, and know you do not have to be a target!

Cheers to life!

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Finding Your Focus

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Every time I write a blog or I post something on Facebook or Instagram, I remember an old cartoon of two men, side by side, digging deep in the ground. The man on the left finds a small diamond. The man on the right sees the man on the left with the diamond, so he stops digging on his side, and moves to the left where the other man stood. We can see that if the man on the right continued digging on his side, he would have found a much bigger diamond, but he gave up, thinking that all the diamonds were all on the other side.

How many times have we heard success stories like that of Coca Cola? Today, more than 1.4 billion servings of Coca Cola products are enjoyed every day — nearly a million servings every minute. But in their first year, 1886, they sold an average of 9 drinks a day. Today, Coca-Cola is available in more than 200 countries around the world.

We can talk about the success stories of Disney, Oprah and so many others. The biggest secret to success is focus and persuasion.

These stories sound so wonderful BUT what if I am following the wrong path?

What if this is not the right thing for me?

What if my neighbor has a better idea?

So many of these thoughts come to me in the middle of the night and I can almost feel my bedroom being “invaded” – it feels crowded!

There are so many people that just want to make their mark. To be famous and respected, to have their opinions quoted by many – to find the diamond when they are digging.

To those people and to myself I say: Continue digging! Don’t move to another place – follow your heart and do it with love. It doesn’t matter how many sales you are booking at this moment. Just focus and persist. At this moment you are creating! No one can do it for you, and in few years from now, you will remember how good it was.

Cheers!

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Who Reads the Newspaper?

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Sometimes I wonder how much knowledge a writer in the media has. Maybe, just having a pulse is enough qualification to write an article. How does the New York Times have the nerve to publish something about travel while obviously not doing any due diligence in learning how travel agents work?

Here is the piece they wrote last week about travel: “Fly direct if you can, carry on essentials in case your bag is delayed, and consider using a travel agent if you can afford it.”

It goes on: “Beyond that, even if you’re too broke or overwhelmed to plan the ideal trip, try to go somewhere you’ve never been before for at least two nights. Spend some time in nature even if you’re not outdoorsy. Talk to a stranger even if you’re not an extrovert. My observation is that a lot of people are mentally struggling right now. Years of working from home, obliterated routines and exhausting daily risk assessments have taken their toll. I love how even a short trip can help reset us and extract us from the pandemic blur.”

Whoever wrote that article didn’t understand some basics. The most important point that needs to be cleared up is: Using a travel agent doesn’t cost MORE. This is like saying if you are sick, go to the doctor IF you can afford it, otherwise, Google your symptoms. Who really cares?

In the next paragraph, he/she/they prove their stupidity by recommending nature for someone who doesn’t enjoy the outdoors and suggesting that an introvert to go talk to people. How about an amusement park for those who hate lines and roller coasters? Genius!!!

I don’t know what is worse – the writer, the newspaper, or the readers who believe this nonsense.

In this world of so much news that is not actual news, but personal opinion, often offered without any research, can we stop and think for ourselves, and stop reading articles like this.  

Let’s work harder to educate people, especially when the media is working against us!

Cheers!

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

I have always up to a challenge in my life. In the past, I struggled with my weight and during 2004, lost 80lbs and have kept it off since. I went from a size 16 to a size 4. Back then, I tried many different diets and different kinds of exercises (I even hurt my back in group classes!) until I found my own way. It was not surgery or magical diets – in my opinion, they DONT WORK for the long term!

Why am I sharing this? Like many new TAs who are struggling to find their niche and how to keep their clients, one formula doesn’t work the same for everyone. Unfortunately, it is not one size fits all.

I love self-help books for losing weight, to how to become a billionaire, and everything in between. Hopefully, they help the writer make money, and are very inspiring to read. But again, everyone is different and what works for Jane will probably not work for John or Jessie.

When trying a new diet and learning that it doesn’t work for you, or that it is making you feel miserable, don’t just try another diet. Or even worse, continue to stay on the same diet, calling it “research.”  How about trying to analyze why it is not working FOR YOU?  

How can you do this? Some people are good at analyzing themselves. Others work best in a support group or with friends. Some are lucky to find coaches or mentors. There are free mentors like me out there who love to pay it forward.

There are people who don’t believe that a free mentor will really help without an ulterior motive. I am sorry for them! For those people, I am working on getting 900 number and charging $5 a minute!

To less research and more accomplishments!   

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You Said So

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Here we are – it has been over 2 years since the beginning of Covid. So many predicted that tourism was done for, and no one would ever travel again, maybe only inside one’s own country. Well, here we are facing summer of 2022. We all know that more and more flights are being canceled and that there are more delayed than on-time flights, not only in the US but all over the world. Airlines prices are skyrocketing and luggage is missing or lost like never before.

Let’s try to understand why, so you can explain to it your clients. Make sure you advise them of two very important pieces of information. In my opinion, these two things should be highly recommended by you, and your client should have to sign that he/she/they were advised and can’t blame you for bad consequences:

  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance
  • Highly recommend traveling with carry-ons

Now, as for what is going on:

Airlines, especially American ones, are not supposed to increase the price of the airline tickets because of the price of the fuel or inflation. So why are the prices so high? There are two big reasons: many pilots are retiring, and airlines are reducing the number of flights to major destinations, controlling supply and demand. This way, they can raise prices and try to make up for the revenue they lost, especially on the corporate side, since they don’t make as much money on leisure. The corporate side is coming back slowly.

Should we cross our fingers for 2023? In my humble opinion, it will take a couple of years until the airlines get more new pilots and corporate travel goes back to the way it was before Covid.  

About luggage being missing or lost, the problem is that airports don’t have enough ground workers to send the luggage to the different airlines. The situation is made worse because of canceled and delayed planes. This is happening a lot in Europe. So, using carry-ons is the real solution. Less is more. Get wrinkle free clothes. Undergarments that can be washed in the shower in the evening and be dried by morning time. Summer is great for shorts and t-shirts. Mix and match colors. Travel with older tennis shoes and some other clothes and leave them behind to make space for souvenirs. Ship home bigger souvenirs or presents. And don’t forget to make sure the comprehensive travel insurance covers for clothing in case of misplaced or lost luggage.

Once you cover these topics with your client (apps don’t do this!) you will have a client for life and hopefully soon, easier times when traveling for all.

Cheering for you!

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Protect Your Travel Business (Part 2)

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Last week we spoke about the Terms and Conditions that TA’s should send to their clients and have them read, initial and sign.  Rather like the way a doctor has patients sign consent forms.  (But, who really reads them?)

Today, let’s talk about E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance. As a disclaimer, I am not an attorney nor am I an insurance agent. I mentor Travel Agents/Advisors on how to succeed in their business based on my background of having 2 tour operator companies and working directly with the public and travel agents.

E&O insurance is also referred to as “professional liability” insurance and can be a good fit for any business that provides services to clients, especially those that charge a fee for their service. What is E&O Insurance?

Errors and Omissions insurance covers some of the errors and omissions you may make. But it doesn’t cover all errors or all omissions. It is much smarter to think of it as catastrophic insurance – for when something goes horribly wrong. It will not cover the $500 mistake of booking the client in the wrong room – but will cover you if someone sues you for an exorbitant amount. E&O insurance also covers your legal defense. Regardless of the reason for the lawsuit, your legal defense will be covered up to your policy limit, until you are proven guilty. Your legal defense will not be covered for sexual misconduct, intentional acts, and criminal acts. Read your policy carefully. Be sure that if you work with specific groups of travelers or a specific niche that the travel you’re booking is covered.

What Doesn’t E&O Insurance Cover?

 E&O does not cover things like debit memos from the airlines, or if you provided the wrong info for travel insurance. If your error/omission had no negative consequences beyond paying the deductible, and you/your client benefited from the error/omission, that’s a moral hazard. And insurance companies don’t pay for those claims.

Examples:

An agency quotes a client $4,000 for a trip that really costs $5,000. The verdict: Your client is happy because they saved $1,000. You’re happy because the client booked. BUT the insurance companies will call that a moral hazard, accident or not, and will not pay.

Your clients are going on a cruise out of Thailand. You let them know they don’t need any special visas, etc. Due to a flight delay and they miss the cruise departure from Thailand and have to catch up with it at the next port, Vietnam, which requires a visa. They end up missing half of their cruise and sue you for the cost of their trip. The verdict: Your unhappy client did not benefit. You did not benefit and could not predict the flight delay. The insurance company would probably cover this.

Do You Need an E&O Policy?

By law, you’re not required to have an E&O policy in the United States. Everyone has different levels of risk they’re comfortable with. Some host agencies allow their independent contractors to be covered under their E&O policy. Others require that the independent contractor obtain their own.

Are there E&O Policies specifically for Travel Agencies?

Call the company you have your homeowners or car insurance with and ask them for a quote to add E&O insurance to your policy. The price of a policy is based on your total agency sales. Also, make sure to ask your consortia, travel agent associations, and/or host agency about any preferred insurance suppliers to save some money. 

Travel agents should understand E&O insurance will not fix all mistakes. Ultimately, it is about knowing and weighing the risk and doing whatever you’re comfortable with.

Now you know better!

There are other ways to protect the way you do business. I like to teach these things to the TA’s I mentor instead of writing them all out in my blogs.  Feel free to reach out!

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Protect Your Travel Business (Part 1)

Dear Travel Agents/Advisors,

Since Covid, individuals in the travel industry have found themselves to be targets of class-action lawsuits for refunds and other issues related to the virus, like cancellations. Some even due to travelers getting sick or even dying during a trip.

These are the 99.9% of the cases in which a TA might be named on a lawsuit. A class-action lawsuit allows an individual to sue on behalf of a larger group, called a “class.” The individuals involved are called “class members.” There is no set number of class members. These cases frequently involve consumer claims and can be brought in state or federal court.

It is now very important that a travel advisor’s terms and conditions or contract with the customer contains a class-action waiver. Below is some information from Jeffrey Ment, managing partner of The Ment Law Group.

Let’s review what should be covered in your Terms and Conditions (TCs). You should consult with a lawyer to make sure that you’re on the correct path. There are four key areas that you should address: clients’ consent to be bound by TCs; payment terms; credit card chargebacks; and “force majeure” (our new favorite French phrase).

Securing a Client’s Consent to TCs

It is very important to start off with language that binds the customer to abide by your TCs. I would suggest the following: “By booking your arrangement with us, you are agreeing to be bound by the terms of this agreement and any additional terms and conditions of any supplier that are applicable to your booking arrangements. The lead passenger assumes the responsibility of sharing these terms and conditions with each passenger in their group, including payment of all amounts when due. It is the responsibility of each passenger to read our terms and conditions in its entirety. In addition, we reserve the right to modify these Terms and Conditions.”   Also, be sure to include the phrase: “If there is any part of these terms and conditions that you do not agree with, please do not use our travel services.”

Setting Clear Payment Terms

Travel advisors offer a service that customers should pay for. Charging a service fee is typical, but the key is to advise the customer right at the beginning of the relationship. I recommend including a statement such as: “Planning any vacation takes extensive time and effort before the departure date ever arrives. We have a rate structure to assist with the time spent covering the initial consultation, research and proposal. We will advise you of our fee for your journey. Our consulting fee will be charged at the time of proposal delivery, regardless of whether a client books a trip with us. When a client books a trip with us, this fee also goes toward travel support and the booking of the trip itself. The consulting fees are nonrefundable. We may also collect a commission from the supplier of your trip.” 

Transparency is key. Clients need to know that you are a valuable asset, and that they should expect to pay for your services.

Addressing Credit Card Chargebacks

There is one other key issue to address regarding payment: credit card chargebacks. Your language should state: “We accept major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Customers must provide a signed charge authorization agreement for every transaction relating to your trip. Your authorization is a binding agreement for us to charge your card, and as such, you waive any right to a chargeback in the case of cancellation for any cause (excepting fraud), including a force majeure event, as defined herein, and agree to refund policies and procedures as outlined in these terms and conditions. In the event a client attempts to chargeback, reverse or recollect a trip payment already made without our authorization, we reserve the right to collect all additional costs, fees and expenses associated with such chargeback, reversal or recollection, including, without limitation, attorney fees.”

The Inclusion of “Force Majeure”

I recommend clearly defining the phrase Force Majeure with this statement: “Force Majeure” means, in relation to our agency, in any circumstances beyond our reasonable control, (including, but without limitation, to acts of God, explosion, flood, forceful wind, fire or accident, war or threat of war declared or undeclared, acts of terrorism, sabotage, insurrection, riots, strikes, civil disturbance, sickness, epidemics, pandemics, quarantines, government intervention, weather conditions, defects in machinery and vehicles, delays or other unforeseeable event), we shall not be deemed to be in breach of these terms and conditions or otherwise be liable to you, and shall not provide any refund, by reason of delay in performance, or by non-performance, of any of our obligations hereunder to the extent that any such delay or non-performance is due to any force majeure. If our agency, and/or any of our travel suppliers, are affected by force majeure, they shall be entitled to, and may in their sole and absolute discretion, vary or cancel any itinerary or arrangement in relation to your trip.”

I know that we are in this business to serve and satisfy our customers, but we need to protect ourselves. These suggestions will help accomplish this objective. Don’t miss part 2 next week. Any questions feel free to contact me!

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