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  • Cultivating Connections Travel Planners

Curious about how the travel industry REALLY works?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

food lovers foodies culinary travel culinary focused wine lovers distillery trail brewery tours travel planning Erin Smith Affinity Group Travel Advisor
How the travel industry REALLY works

It's hard to believe we are headed into summer soon. Without our usual touchstones of spring school events such as end-of-year banquets, baseball, and graduations, it is pretty confusing this year.

I thought it might be helpful to explain a bit about how the travel agency business actually works. I've received questions from members in networking groups that made me realize my clients might also wonder how this all works!

I first got into the business, of course, I thought it would all be fun! It is lots of fun, but it is a business, and there are moments that can be pretty challenging! (Especially this year!)

My process begins with clients contacting me about travel, and I have to be careful to get a clear picture of what the clients would really enjoy. Travel planning is not a "one size fits all" endeavor. One aspect I deal with often is to raise clients' standards. Many have been conditioned to think that travel is something to be coordinated instantly, without putting any real thought into the design of the trip. Those who have done some business travel may think all travel has to be approached with the same thought process, emphasizing cost and using hotel "points" above all else. I like to make sure vacations don't feel like stale business trips!

I feel like my clients' time & money need to be spent in a way that benefits them and not to be influenced too much by "deals". Often those "deals" really are not a benefit to the client, so I make sure the client's needs are the top priority!

Lots of my time is spent learning about destinations, staying connected with my onsite connections such as hotel managers, tourist departments, and destination management companies. There are always updates on activities or upgrades going on at various destinations, resorts, and on cruises. Recently I also have been receiving country updates. This year I am tracking when borders are open or closed due to health updates. What wild ride the last couple of months have been!

Since travel is sometimes done best by water, other times by land, I make sure to compare the best way to explore an area while staying on budget and hopefully having opportunities for some lovely surprises. There is so much more out there than the client is aware of before his or her first visit, and I love showing my clients the unexpected! Most people don't know what they don't know!

How am I paid? I am paid with planning fees, as well as commissions that are paid to me from various suppliers after the clients complete their travel. If I just mention or quote something to a client, but do not actually book the discussed trip, guess what? I don't get paid. If someone books their own travel on a resort website for a vacation I have helped plan, the resort does not pay me and that client doesn't have me working for them before and during their travel. The client loses out for not having a professional travel advisor taking care of them! I look at my client's travels holistically in ways that an online booking site cannot, as they can only recommend their resort company. Someone at a call center won't be there for you long-term. I will be here, and that is something for you to think about!

Sometimes I am asked if I choose to book a trip for clients offered by some company offering a bonus commission. Some agencies have required sales quotas each month and operate that way, but I do not. My priority is to take care of my clients and always recommend what is in their best interest.

My agency is part of a couple of groups. Gifted Travel Network is my host agency, and through that partnership, I am connected to the Virtuoso Consortia. Membership within Virtuoso is an amazing resource, the top group of luxury travel agencies worldwide. Quite often I have access to special amenities that no one else receives. I also have more help for you if something out of the ordinary happens, due to my network of preferred connections. I love the special Virtuoso groups on some cruises and tours too! I really wish we had not had to cancel the big Virtuoso event that would have been in early April, as well as the yearly Virtuoso World event in August, bringing contacts together from all over the world! While I am staying closer to home, I'm involved in lots of Zoom calls and phone calls with my Virtuoso network. Virtuoso takes care of me so I can take care of you!

When clients work with me, they are accessing my expertise, my resources, and connections, and that is a very smart way to plan your travel! I really love what I am able to coordinate for my clients as part of Virtuoso! My favorite thing is the looks on clients' faces as they tell me about their wonderful travel experiences!

I promise there is no quiz, now that you are an expert on how the travel industry works. This information is offered to help you feel more informed on why you should do business with Cultivating Connections Travel Planners. As I mentioned, I am here to stay, and I hope you feel good knowing you are working with a true expert!

If you are ready to be one of the smart people who is ready to put a deposit on a great getaway for late 2020 or 2021, please get in touch. I anticipate significant pent-up demand for travel with the "all clear" is announced, so it's not too early to plan ahead. The best way is to click below where it says "Start Your Adventure". I look forward to being of service to you!

(Inspired by Pam Smithgall of Southshore Travel)

Erin Smith ~ Affinity Groups Travel Advisor

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