ASTA Global Convention 2019: HAR Highlights
Your Friendly AGC Ambassadors, Here to Report!
Oh hey there! HAR is representing at ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) Global Convention. (We're on a nickname basis, so we affectionately call it AGC!) Steph kicked off the conference by building a sand alligator and it only got better from there.
Did you miss out? Make sure to register for the 2020 conference! But for this year, we're here as your conference spies! Here's a recap of a few of the sessions we attended.
⭐️ HAR Article Highlights: ⭐️
- Hosts/Consortia Share How Top-Producing Members Find Success
- The Fine Print: Understanding How to Use Terms & Conditions to Help Protect Your Business
- Secrets to Success from Top Female Agency Owners
- Global Stewardship and Responsible Travel
- Rule of the Road: Agency Relationships and the Law
Hosts/Consortia Share How Top-Producing Members Find Success
HAR's very own Steph Lee facilitated a panel of hosts and consortia on how their top-producing advisors work their magic. I'm still computing their wisdom! But stay tuned, because great info is coming your way.
- Betsy Geiser, Uniglobe Travel International
- Jackie Friedman, Nexion, LLC
- Brian Chapin, Ensemble Travel Group
- Scott Koepf, Cruise Planners
- Stephanie Lee, Host Agency Reviews
What is the secret sauce for top-producing agents? This is the golden question! The panel touched on this issue, but I'm sad to say no one revealed the exact recipe. But here are a few of my takeaways from the panel (with a few resources to help you develop your own recipe for success)
What is a top-producer?
It's not all about the almighty dollar, but it also kinda-sorta is. One thing the panelists touched on is that top-producers are advisors who are serious about investing time and energy in their business. They are advisors who are building a business, not necessarily just selling a trip here and there.
But whether you're putting in a 60hr/week grind or selling one-off cruises for your friends and family, panelists touched on a few larger issues . . . a few ingredients are a part of every advisor's success:
1. Understand what your host and consortia have to offer
When you sign on with a host or consortium it's going to be overwhelming. You will have a list of logins. You will have to set up a ton of profiles. You'll need to start plugging into the relationship your host and consortium have with supplier BDMs. It will be easy to let tools go by the wayside, but don't! Build it in with your learning curve! Consider things such as:
- How do I maximizes my host/consortium's direct-marketing resources?
- How do I utilize my hosts/consortium's CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and sync it with other tools I use/need?
- How do your host/consortium's various memberships benefit you, the agent?
The sooner you can understand what you host/consortium provides and how you can utilize those tools (preferably before you sign on), the better off you'll be. How do you know what you'll need? What tools will mesh into your long-term vision? If you're going the host route, start with this list of questions to ask a host agency, and make sure you ask them which tools they have that will best support your niche:
2. a sale is temporary. customer relationships are forever
Customer relationships don't end with the sale. They are ongoing. If you know your customer well, you can anticipate and reach out to them to plan milestone event travel such as: a birthday getaway; a milestone anniversary cruise; a family reunion (because you know the last one you booked was five years ago).
Utilizing your CRM and tools above will help you find a perfect balance of automating and personalizing this process of staying connected with your customers. According to Betsy, this is a step that's even more important for those agents who don't care to do any sort of content marketing.
3. Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.
In order know your client well and maintain those relationships, you need to start out on a strong foot. You can do this by taking the time to qualify them. How do you do that? We happen to have a resource to help you do just that!
4. Engage via social
Alongside personal engagement, you can also engage on social. This will give you a presence and a footprint, more than driving leads your way (which is not to say you won't get leads, but you may be disappointed if lead generation is your goal). Jackie recommended that advisors use a "storytelling" approach with social media (more personalized than just trying to blast your brand).
The Fine Print: Understanding How to Use Terms & Conditions to Help Protect Your Business
Terms and Conditions: I'm not gonna lie. This topic is a real doozie. Thank goodness for lawyer heroes like Peter Lobasso who can break it down in a 45min. session. Below, I'm including a list of things to consider including in your terms and conditions, info from Peter's Q&A and a link to other legal resources on our site!
- Peter Lobasso, ASTA's General Counsel
Okay, take a breath because I'm about to bombard you with information (Peter was very thorough). This list just scratches the surface of what you can include in a terms and conditions and if you want to take a deep dive into the issue make sure you go to ASTA's Global Convention next year if you missed it this year!
What to include in your terms and conditions
- Role of Advisor: Oh hey, guess what? We're going to chat more on this soon when I summarize Peter's next session! So stay tuned.
- Sources of Advisor Compensation: Do you get commissions (goodness, I hope so!) Do you accept fees? Be transparent about this in your T&C.
- Pricing Changes: It may be obvious to you that a quoted price is subject to change. Alas, you need to include it in your T&C. You also want to include the price lock-in date so there's documentation that you told your clients if they get mad about a bump in price.
- Errors in Pricing: If it's possible for you or a supplier to bungle the pricing on a quote, you'll want to include a provision that protects you from this error in your T&C.
- Deposit/ Payment Schedule: Is your deposit/ payment schedule abundantly clear? Is it clear what the recourse is if they miss payment?
- Cancellations/ Refund Policy: What is yours? Do you have cancellation fees?
Third Party Itinerary Changes:
- Disclaimer of ResponsIbility for Certain Events: Can you help it if an airline cancels a flight or if a surprise hurricane decides to make a surprise visit during a destination wedding? No. And your T&C should reflect as much!
- Air Ticket Related Restrictions: This includes things like change fees, transfers, and non-refundable fees that may apply.
- Debit Memo Liability: If a client does something against airline ticketing policy (including hidden city, back to back, or not using a return ticket), a T&C clause will protect advisors.
- Traveler Responsibilities: You can include a clause that covers client responsibilities, such as giving you accurate info in order to book their travel. This can prevent booking errors down the line.
- Travel Documentation: Do they need a Real ID? Does their passport still need to be valid for a specific amount of time during/after travel? Make sure your clients knows!
- Travel Insurance: Did you offer it? Great! Make sure you document that you offered it (especially if they decline).
- Inherent Risks of Travel: Disclaim any assurance of safety and let them know about general risks they are assuming by traveling (illness, natural disaster, mechanical disaster etc.)
- Traveler's Assumption of Risk: Steph likes to chase sharks and hurricanes! I like to impose safety swim breaks and make sure everyone applies sunscreen every two hours. This is all to say that all travelers have different risk tolerances and you should not be advising any traveler as to what risk they should/should not assume.
- Referral to Objective Sources of Destination Information: You should direct your client to objective sources such as CDC and DOJ for any facts about travel to certain destinations. This, however, does NOT relieve you from disclosing specific risks to destinations. (Because if you know a destination has a zika outbreak, and you don't tell your clients you can get into trouble.)
- General Limitation of Liability: Is it $1,000? $2,000?This is something that should be boldly displayed! Make it bold. Put it in caps, because let's face it, there's a TON OF INFO and this is a piece of info that needs to really stand out.
- Jurisdiction and Venue: If things take a turn for the worse, and a client ends up bringing a case against you, ideally you want this case to be in YOUR state. Getting sued is already expensive, and if jurisdiction is not established, then you risk needing to fly yourself across the country just to defend yourself.
- Governing Laws: Which state gets to decide how to interpret your terms and conditions? (It should say so in your terms and conditions . . . agencies typically choose their home state.)
- Alternative Dispute Resolution: Don't want to go court? You can choose to mandate that a case is tried either via mediation (doesn't preclude the possibility of a court case) or arbitration (which is legally binding and requires that both sides give up right to sue).
- Terms and Conditions are Subject to Change: Thing change. Let your client know that your T&C can change. If they DO happen to change, then please have your client review and sign your new T&C!
- Effective Date: When did you current version of T&C go into effect? Be very clear about this!
Your Questions, Answered!
Question: When it comes to having a client accept or decline insurance. Is it enough for a client to just send an email or do you need signed waiver?
A: Email is good but are subject to challenges in litigation, typically having a signed agreement is the ultimate protection.
Q: Are we allowed to use T&C from other websites?
A: The short answer is yes, most people do that. Take it and tailor it to your use. You want to make sure those terms for another agency make sense for your own. Have an attorney check.
Q: Does the DOT provide any language to include in T&C?
A: Yes they do. To learn more we have a course on regulatory compliance at ASTA.
Q: Where is the best place to find a lawyer specific for travel agency?
A: ASTA member benefits includes a free 15 minute consultation with attorney specialized in travel law and will give a discount on hourly rates. (You can check out HAR's list of travel industry attorneys.)
Q: Did you put anything in email signature or somewhere about T&C?
A: Some people do, but if I’m a judge, I will look at how reasonable it is that client saw that. There is no affirmative consent or I agree check box.
Q: Is there a different level of legal risk in working on fee basis vs commission?
A: Talk about the relationship of the parties and where you receive compensation. You don’t want someone claiming that they didn’t know you receive commission from supplier in addition to consultation fee.
Q: Is there an acceptable way to send T&C through email? How do you guarantee that they will send it back.
A: It depends on how you want it returned to you. There is potential for client to claim they didn’t get it.
Is that everything?
Oiy. Did I really say that this just scratches the surface? Well it really is just the beginning. But guess what. ASTA has fabulous resources available to you if you decide to become an ASTA member. They don't have a T&C template yet, but there is one in the works!
Secrets to Success from Top Female Agency Owners
"Over 80% of the industry is made of female small-business owners," according to Becky Powell (and our research supports this too!) ASTA created an inspirational panel on how women from different personal and professional backgrounds succeed in this industry.
These esteemed women chat on contingency plans when crisis hits, how to attract (and keep) new talent in the industry, and some obstacles they faced as women in the industry. Read a few tidbits on the panel below!
- Tiffany Hines, Global Escapes
- Becky Powell, Protravel International
- Olga Ramudo, Express Travel
- Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, Valerie Wilson Travel
- Jennifer (Jen) Cochrane, Gifted Travel Network
Advice to women starting out in the industry
- Jennifer (Wilson Buttigieg) on the complexities of working for a family business: "My sister and I, I think it was about eight years ago. It was a jumbled mess. I would say, 'Kim, what's up with your kids. By the way the marketing team sucks,' blah blah blah and it was a jumbled mess of personal and professional. Whether you're a female leader, a male leader any kind of leader, you need to know when to ask for help. We brought in some family advisors and some counselors and we text each other as sisters and we email each other as colleagues. And we may not always agree, but I always know she has the best interest of our company and our family first."
- Jen (Cochrane): I think it's really important as women we are multi-taskers and we drive ourselves really hard. We are really tough on ourselves. And I think it's really important for us to support one another and be kind to one another. It's also important to remember to be kind to ourselves and remember to enjoy the journey a little bit. It's amazing what we do, and sometimes I think we get so focused on getting the stuff done that we forget to remember how much we love it and take pride in all the success that we've had.
What are one or two of the biggest obstacles as you've evolved in your career
- Tiffany: Definitely I think the biggest obstacle has been the people component . . . My job started as a travel advisor back in the day and I loved working with clients and planning travel and now my job is developing people. And I think coming to the realization of that and that that's my role now at our company, it's exciting but it's definitely not easy. And when you bring the human element and personal lives cross over into work lives, you just have to
- Olga: "Starting the business, I think the biggest challenge was getting a line of credit to start the business. Remember, these are stay-at-home moms, trying to become business women and going to a bank to say, 'I want to do this and I need you to loan me money.' I mean, trying to convince them of that. It took a little convincing, but we did get it done."
- Jennifer: "I think it's making sure you have the right people in the right role. And as many of these businesses have gone on for decades, sometimes the people who got you there are going to be the ones who get you there in the future. We've used a couple of different tools. One is call Colby and the other is Strength Finders. It's sort of like a Myers Briggs, 'are you right-handed or left handed.' It's not that you're bad at anything, but what do you really love to do. The second thing I would probably say is, it's my greatest asset, but it's a challenge being Valerie's daughter and you don't want it handed to you. You want to work hard for everything you have. And [my sister] and I have each found our own outlets. "
How do you train new talent?
- Jen: "We see this as the biggest opportunity. We're so excited about the growth of the industry . . . It's amazing the talent that is coming into this industry . . . We—I think a lot of different agencies have training programs, we're obviously not the only one, but that is where we're focusing most of our strategic emphasis is on brining in new-to-the-industry. It is formalized. It's a 12-month program and there is coaching as well as content. It's not an insignificant investment so we're looking for people who understand they need to invest to start a new business . . . "
- Jennifer: "Training is critical whether it's through VTA or VCTA through Virtuoso. What we actually created is a summer intern program, which is a 12-week program where we now actually have lots of applicants who apply. As a female owned business we really reach out to individuals to show them that we are a fully functioning organization. So people may join as marketing, HR, commission collection as well as leisure advisor, corporate advisor or meeting planner. And what has been so rewarding is to watch some of these young people actually come back and apply for full time jobs."
- Tiffany: "So we are in a college town. Go Dogs! So we also have interns with college students. That's been very successful. It's interesting to see some of these young women come along and enter into the travel industry in other areas . . . that's been exciting to me, like Jen mentioned. The opportunities that exist in our industry as a whole . . . . for the folks who are coming on from other industries to become a travel advisor, we have some sort of a mentoring program where we team them up with a senior advisor and they act as an assistant to that advisor while they're learning how they work through their day and work through all the different types of leads and existing clients, that they have the different types of personalities and trips that they work on. They do go through a period of training for a good two months and they really start to dive into the real-life application of a day in the life of the advisor. "
how have you gotten through bad times like 9/11 or the financial crisis?
- Olga: "70% of our business is corporate. The corporate did slow, but it did not stop. What we found with leisure, continued traveling in spite of all. Whoever went to Europe for two weeks in a 5-star hotel then went to Mexico for a week in a 4-star hotel, but everybody did continue to travel. It was us looking very closely at our expenses. I always say this is a penny-pinching business so you need to look at the pennies. Pennies come in. Pennies need to go out. So we're very very careful with our expenses. At that time we were even more. But our staff was not affected, we didn't let anybody go."
- Jennifer: "New York is our headquarters. On the morning of 9/11 we had 14 floors of clients in the two towers. 13 floors got out but one client on the top floor didn't and that was my client. So when I think about 9/11 still, our advisors remember hearing the impact of the plane over the phone, so very different story. But from this perspective it was sheer dedication and perseverance. Valerie, Kimberly and I went to zero penny. We unfortunately did lay 54 people off in one day. Looking back on it in hindsight, I remember having all the tickets in a shoe box and xerox boxes and which ones were going to be refunded and which process. Many of you know Valerie had a very bad heart attack two months later. I think it was stress. She honestly had built this business from nothing and letting these 54 people go was unbelievable. But we did tiered pay and we paid it back over time and not one person left, not one client left, not one advisor or associate as we called them left. And it reminds us that we had been going through a wonderful run of about ten years and you have a rainy day plan and new advisors to the industry I say, 'I'm getting nervous. You're hiring 4,5,6 people, what's the plan if and when something happens?'" And sometimes it's naive, sometimes it's exuberance, they go, 'Oh that won't happen to me.' And I really hope it won't, but these are mentoring lessons whether for a young woman, a young gentleman, anyone running a business, to sort of say, what is your plan B. And not just to have it in your mind but to be able to execute on it."
- Tiffany: " . . . One of the things we did with the economic downturn back in 2008 and 2011 was really dive in to our systems and our processes and our marketing and really try and spend that time to fine tune things instead of just waiting and hoping. So we tried to be a little proactive so when things did turn back around we were prepped and ready."
- Jen: "I've been telling all my advisors that, we're coming into an election year. Don't let anyone think that they have a long time to book a 2020 trip. Because we know, it's a proven fact that in an election year there's minimal growth in the travel industry so make sure you seize every opportunity."
Questions and Answers
Questions: What advice do you have for someone who wants to sell travel in their retirement?
Tiffany: "...Training, as far as studying and learning as much as you can about some of the tools that we use in the industry would definitely get you started. And you just have to realize that when you are beginning it really does take a year or two to create a pipeline of business, so it does require a lot of patience.
Jen: "...And also some investment up front. I think that for a year or two you should expect to have enough finances to fund your lifestyle without revenue from the travel business for at least 12 to 18 months because not only does it take awhile to build up your pipeline, but then there's a lag in your revenue stream too because you can take your service fees up front but your commissions aren't going to come until the traveler travels."
Jennifer: "Find a couple mentors. Talk to people. Decide where your passion point is."
Olga: "Get involved and build relationships . . . get involved either in church groups or chambers or women's organizations. You need to create relationships so that people are aware of what you're doing and they trust to work with people they know."
Becky: "And don't count on your friends and family to make you survive" [laughter]
Q: How as women in leadership do you advocate for diversity things like LGBTQIA+ society as well as people of color. How do you take that on personally as a women in your leadership to create more diversity in your agency.
Jen: "Like anything else, it's just leading by example. When we really believe in inclusiveness and we're open minded and we're supportive of lots of different people that can bring a lot of strength to our community. We act on what we believe in and hopefully other people will follow suit."
[inaudible]: "A great team goes back to great diversity. Different minds, different ways of thinking. Different challenges, different approaches. And you come together with a much greater skill set, for one. I also think that there are many different organizations within the travel industry and I'm thinking of ILTM that stated out as ILTM Cannes . . . and it's making sure that you are on the cutting edge of what's out that and to make sure you offer it to your team members."
Q: What are strategies you use to build cohesion among your teams.
Jen: ". . . It's really important to not really let everyone go off and do their own thing. They get too caught up in their silo because we always come up with much better answers when we've got collaboration and a different perspectives . . . "
Tiffany: "Define core values. Your mission, your vision. Kind of where you see things in 5, 10, 15 years. Then really always kind of bring everybody back to that. It gives people something to work towards and it seems to have really, it's brought our team together . . . if you can align your teams around a core focus, that really helps keep everyone working together."
Becky: "We have goals that we set at the beginning of the year. It's a big thing to do. Even if you're starting out new in your business, make sure that you have goals that you're working towards. Not just financial, but personal goals, business goals, everything. And check in with those goals. Even if you don't have a team underneath you, it's really key to getting your business on track and keeping it profitable."
Q: I've never had a formal training program . . . what do you recommend [for training]?
Olga: "We do have a lot of in-house training from the vendors. We always do early mornings or lunch because it's difficult to take the agents off of the phones. They do go on FAMs if it's an approved FAM. We cover 50% of the cost and they need to come back and give a report to the staff . . . a lot of online training as well. For example we're members of Signature and now we send 6 or 7 of our agents to the Signature conference and that's basically what we do!"
Global Stewardship and Responsible Travel
What is over tourism? What are myths about sustainable travel? How can advisors begin to encourage sustainable practice among their clientele? What are resources for advisors who are interested in getting more connected with sustainable travel? Read on!
- Robyn Basso, The Hawaiian Islands
- Amy Brown, ATTA
- Perry Lungmus, Travel Leaders Network
- Genevieve Strand, ASTA
- Guy Young, The Travel Corporation
What is over tourism?
Perry from Travel Leaders Network started the presentation with the potential positive and negative impacts of tourism on global economies and environments:
"First I want to say how lucky we are to be in an industry where we can do so much good globally; for travelers, for cross-cultural bridges we can build, and the economies of so many different countries around the world dependent on tourism as a part of their GDP. On the other hand, I think those of you who travel a lot also know, if poorly managed, travel can also have myriad complications and introduce some serious issues. Among them are the issues of over-tourism."
Perry discussed a research partnership with New York University, addressing the impact of over tourism from "what is over tourism" and how sellers of travel can implement solutions to address some of the issues of over tourism, minimizing negative impact of over tourism culturally, socially, economically (considering what tourism does to cost of living, i.e.), environmentally impact while also considering visitor experience.
Here's some key research Perry presented:
- 80% of DMO (Destination Management Organization) say that they are having over-tourism issues.
- 53% are taking action against over-tourism
- 82% of advisors feels industry should take a leading stance to address issue
- 56% have seen an increase in negative feedback from client because of over-tourism of certain destinations
But how do advisors navigate these large and difficult conversations with clients on huge issues like climate crisis and over-tourism? Here's Logan's summary of what the panel had to say regarding myths of responsible travel:
Myth 1: responsible travel is just a niche product.
- Responsible travel isn’t a product, it's a philosophy!
- Many companies from air to hotels to tours to cruises have adopted these philosophies.
Myth 2: I only have to think about these issues for rural or developing destinations.
- Some data from United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO): In the next 20 years, we're going to have another billion global travelers.
- These issues affect every destination, whether domestic or abroad.
- Different destinations face unique issues.
Myth 3: Responsible travel is only about the environment.
- It's also about the impact on the local community. For example, ways that travel reduces the amount of affordable housing, traffic, and parking issues for local residents.
- How can we preserve culture? What makes a destination unique for generations to come?
Myth 4: clients uninterested in volunteering or donating, won’t care about responsible travel
- Low in impact doesn't have to mean low in luxury.
- There are a lot of tours and operators creating phenomenal experiences and it doesn't necessarily mean you're sleeping in a mosquito tent. It's possible part of your reservation goes to the local communities or are engaging with local guides on excursions.
- Many companies have social and corporate responsibility and even philanthropy plans. You can support by supporting them.
Myth 5: It’s too expensive! It will never fit in my client’s budget.
- "There's no connection between being expensive and being responsible".
- Advisors can offer good choices at all price points and within all budgets.
Myth 6: My clients will be roughing it and skimping on luxury.
- As with different price points, responsible travel exists for all styles, budgets and needs.
- Emphasize offering amazing experience that focus on culture.
- Luxury travel companies are often the leaders in this space.
Myth 7: it's someone else’s problems, so my clients and I don’t need to care about them.
- Responsible travel is becoming more common. Millennials particularly are embracing responsible travel and it's a great opportunity to grow the segment.
- Whether you play an active roll or not, these issues are real and your clients’ travel plays a part in them.
- We all share this planet, so we all need to take ownership and ensure that we work together to ensure that travel is a force for good
Myth 8: These issues are so big. There’s no way my clients or I can make a difference.
- There's so much doom and gloom out there. But travel can be a force for good. You are doing something by being in this room. But you're here and you're engaging.
- No traveler or advisor can tackle every issue.
- Think about your supply chain. Are the people you're working with environmentally conscious and working with their local communities? Are you asking them this stuff? Do they have policies on this?
- Educating your clients, maybe they don’t know that the issue exists. Sharing these stories and conversations. Some people just need to have the seed planted. If you have a conversation with one of your clients, and they have that conversation with your husband it will have a ripple effect.
What is top of mind for you right now on this issue?
- Guy: Encouraging clients to go to destinations that are crying out for tourism. Encourage traveling in the off season.
- Robin: Hawaii is a peak destination. Island distribution, we want people to experience all islands. It's not about growing tourism anymore, it's about managing tourism. Focus on travel advisors because their clients stay longer and spend more. Campaign on preserving culture, launched this year, 4 one-minute long videos, reef safe sunscreen, stay on hiking trails,
- Amy: Advisors have the opportunity to gather resources for clients so they can have a positive impact on destinations. Offering carbon offsets for trip, providing deals on products like water bottles, filtration systems, etc. Helping change their mindset when they travel to other destinations, can I rent a bike instead of taking a cab for example, or saying no thank you I don’t need a straw.
- Perry: Also, responsible travel is good business, all those things contribute to a better customer experience, better for destination, better for all of us.
Rules of the Road: Agency Relationships and the Law
Check back soon! I'm working away on the update :)