TRAVEL AGENTTHE HOW-TO MAGAZINE FOR TRAVEL TRADE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
AN SMP TRAINING PUBLICATION
The ART of
When I heard that Steve Crowhurst was going to be launching a new publication that
focusses on the growing independent contractor segment of our industry, my first reaction
was – of course! Who else would be so in tune with this growing trend in the travel agent
My second reaction was – how can I participate?
I have known Steve for many years now as our careers have intertwined, but the passion
that I immediately saw in Steve has never dissipated. In fact, he is as bullish on the travel
agent segment of this industry that we all love as the day I met him 30 or so years ago.
While there are many industry trainers and educators out there – and Canada is fortunate
to have some of the very best anywhere – Steve is not only one of the most successful
but he is one of the most respected, passionate, clear-thinking, witty, and humble of them
Share this e-magazine with any peers that you like and respect, and hide it from anyone
you don’t; and if your goal is to be as successful as you can be as a travel agent – make
IC Travel Agent a regular part of your reading, and follow Steve’s advice.
I know that I speak for everyone who has had the pleasure to work with, be influenced
by, or even read any of his voluminous works when I say – congratulations Steve! We all
expect big things from you Steve, and I know that you will not disappoint!
Best of success,
MIKE FOSTER – WELCOMES
IC TRAVEL AGENT
If you are an independent travel agent
looking to affiliate with a host agency to run
your business more profitably and
efficiently then Nexion Canada is the
partner for you.
Retain up to 80% of top commissions
Enhance your skills with training, coaching and
Manage your bookings with your choice of GDS
or graphical booking engines
Operate your business efficiently with tools and
Differentiate yourself with exclusive Cruise Block
Space and supplier offers
Increase your customer base with innovative
Contact us now to become part of our winning team!
www.join.nexioncanada.com 866.399.9989 email@example.com
2 CONGRATULATIONS from Mike Foster, Nexion Canada
Selling travel from home does
not have to be a puzzle when you
read IC! Find the host agency
that best suits your needs.
Share your money making ideas
in IC and help your IC colleagues.
SMP Training Co.
IC TRAVEL AGENT is owned and published
by Steve Crowhurst, SMP Training Co. All
Rights Reserved. Protected by
International Copyright Law. IC TRAVEL
AGENT can be shared, forwarded, cut and
pasted but not sold, resold or in anyway
monetized. Using any images or content
from IC TRAVEL AGENT must be sourced
as follows: “Copyright SMP Training Co.
www.smptraining.com” SMP Training Co.
568 Country Club Drive, Qualicum Beach,
BC, Canada, V9K-1G1 Note: Steve
Crowhurst is not responsible for
outcomes based on how you interpret or
use the ideas in IC TRAVEL AGENT.
5 WELCOME TO THE PREMIER ISSUE by Steve Crowhurst
6 VISIT THE IC WEBSITE
7 THE IC CAREER
12 THE SALE SCALE
13 THE VETERAN IC
14 THE CORPORATE IC
15 TRAINING PAGE: PROSPECTING VIDEO
16 THE PRO OFFICE
18 THE FAMILY
19 DIY FAM Trips
22 SOCIAL UNDERSTANDING
24 EMAIL IS YOUR #1
26 WHAT’S YOUR VALUE? Guest Article BY Mike Foster, Nexion Canada
28 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
29 WHICH NICHE?
30 SELLING TRAVEL WITH STEVE
31 FILING CABINET FOLDER
32 TOOLS: WEBSITE
34 TOOLS: GOOGLE MAPS NEW VERSION
35 TOOLS: FONTS & MORE
36 NEW TOOLS TO ENHANCE YOUR BUSINESS
37 DAILY INSPIRATION – HUMAN PLANET VIDEO
38 NEW SELF-STUDY WORKBOOK
39 LET’S TALK ABOUT TRAINING
TABLE OF CONTENTS – IC OCTOBER 2013
If it’s not yet 5pm where you live, you still have time to make one more
call, close one more sale or send one more promotion!
This is the inaugural issue of IC TRAVEL AGENT and I sincerely hope you enjoy
it, subscribe to it, download it and share it. The idea behind IC Travel Agent
magazine is to help you sell more travel from home.
Every page offers something new to learn and apply. Check out the Quick Clip videos and
Video Training Pages, too. Even the slogans, colours, page titles, fonts, travel graphics and
page layouts offer you new ideas, ways, tips, tools and techniques to enhance your own
travel marketing endeavours.
Our content is entirely focused on new business generation and how you can work
smarter. If you need more ‘how-to’ be sure to visit the IC Travel Agent website. In this
issue, we set the scene and review some of the basics to get you on the right track for
pursuing and furthering your IC travel agent career. Future issues will focus entirely on
NBG – New Business Generation and selling travel as an IC.
I’d like to extend a warm thank you to Nexion Canada for being first onboard to support
and sponsor IC Travel Agent and for seeing the expanding opportunity that IC Travel Agent
brings to the table.
Send in your questions or suggest a topic and we’ll respond quickly. If you have a terrific
marketing idea to share, write it up and send it to me for publication.
Here’s to your continued success!
Steve Crowhurst, CTC
Steve Crowhurst, CTC, Publisher
Visit the IC Website
It’s all yours! The website is a living website which means it will continue to grow as new home-
based selling ideas, tips, tools and techniques are added each month. Be sure to visit and sign up
for anything and everything. Thanks again to NEXION CANADA for being our first supporter.
Participate and tell us what you would like access to on the IC Travel Agent website.
If you’ve had recent successes and you are willing to share, then send in an overview
of what you did, how it worked and the dollars generated.
The IC Careerby Steve Crowhurst, CTC
If you are new to the business of selling travel, welcome. You have chosen the
most marvellous of careers – selling travel. As a new IC you are most probably
attached to a travel agency, a host agency, a franchise, group, consortium or
going it alone if that’s legal where you live. As you start and build your business
you will find plenty of ideas, tips and tools in the pages of this and future issues
of IC Travel Agent that will keep you on the right side of the law.
Just kidding about the law, however there
are well known rules and un-written rules /
laws that, if you are not aware of them, your
career and your investment will be heading
down the toilet pretty quickly.
The definition of the new IC, is someone who
has never been a travel agent in a previous
life or been associated with the retail travel
trade. You may hail from a thousand other
careers or industries and generally there is
always something in your work history that
you can use in your IC Travel Agent career.
But let’s first look at some of the rules you
might want to live by:
New To Travel
This quick introduction to the IC role and
career will help you make one or two crucial
Before you start your IC career you should, if
you are going to do this right, travel the
world and read everything you can about
travelling. You should know the roots of the
travel trade, how it started, what’s
happened since, and study the world of
tourism, too. You need this background
information so that you can better predict
going forward. As always you must learn the
basics and it starts with the history of the
retail travel trade which dates to the late-
1800s both here in North America and
You could also sign up for a travel & tourism
course and that would also help you get
started in your IC career. These courses can
cost you as much as $6,000 so be sure the
content includes sales, generic marketing
and social media marketing, too. A travel
course without social media included is not
at the cutting edge.
Depending upon which host agency you join
you will be offered training, usually a one-
week program and then after that it
becomes your responsibility to take
advantage of every educational program
offered and sponsored. Not everything is
free. Be prepared to invest in your ongoing
education. Set aside money to pay for
webinars, workshops and FAM trips.
Perhaps you were planning to enter the
travel trade and then travel for FREE and
make a few bucks along the way. Well you
could do that however most host agencies
worth their salt are looking for new IC
prospects intent on building a solid business.
If you come into the trade as what I call a
“dabbler” your career might be short lived.
Your host agency and the preferred suppliers
that support your host agency want sales. If
you are not in it to win it – best to look
elsewhere for your second career.
Not only that, a little knowledge is a
dangerous thing as the saying goes. Selling
travel without the right training and
knowledge can cause the death of a client.
They can be held in jails, they can be termed
traitors for emigrating and their family
history and political stance could actually
have them incarcerated for years and even
tortured. IF you are not aware of certain
international travel requirements you are a
danger to your clientele.
Selling travel then is not something to treat
lightly. It is a serious multi-trillion dollar
industry and on track to being the #1
industry in the world. It already employs
more people than any other global industry.
It is in many cases the sole industry for some
countries. There is a delicate balance going
on in the world and if you participate in
sending people around it, you had better be
well informed, well trained and have a work
ethic and attention to detail aptitude that is
nothing short of 100%. Your host agency will
demand this too.
A Great Career for Young People
I personally entered the travel trade at age
16 but then I knew what I wanted to do and
had already been hitchhiking my native
country from age 13. In 1967 I worked my
passage around the world by working on
cruise ships. I am well aware of how a young
person can make it in this industry and even
more so today making use of all things
online, digital, mobile and more.
If your age is let’s say in the 18 to 25 age
group then this is the career for you IF you
have an adventurous mindset and a deep
seated dream to see the world AND you
want to make money. The same before- you-
start warnings apply to you too. Best you go
travelling first, build your world knowledge
and then focus on gaining the additional
knowledge you need to build a long term and
profitable IC career. If you have already
travelled and you travelled to places you
know very well, then you are ahead of the
game. Your favourite destination could
represent your first niche market.
Retirees and Travel Careers
For those who have decided that selling
travel would be an excellent thing to do in
retirement, please think again. It is hard
work. It is engaging work. It can put all your
talents to work. You can call on all your old
contacts. A travel trade career later in life
can be extremely exciting and rewarding –
however, it requires a business mindset not
a retired mindset. You make one mistake
and a client is injured along the way, or what
you sold was not what they thought they
were buying and you could, if they send a
Boston lawyer your way, lose your house
and all your retirement savings! The law is
never say “trust me…” – or utter a “Sure!”
when you really do not know.
IC Travel Agent Next Generation
For the travel savvy, techno minded, all-
things-online person interested in an IC
career, you could be in for the most
delightful life you ever thought it possible to
The IC Ng… the Next Generation, would see
you travelling and blogging as you go,
delivering live video and streaming telecasts
back to your social media and networked
connections, inviting them to join you where
you are. You would book their flights from
where you are, post regularly to your social
media accounts through a dashboard and
return to home base to hold a consumer
event to talk about your travels and sell your
next guided tour. Now THAT is exciting. Or it
should be, as that scenario is the future of
the travel trade for those that desire to be
the next generation of travel agent.
I can tell you now, there are enough dabblers
in the trade who sell one or two trips a year
and call themselves a professional travel
agent. They attend the functions, take the
free FAM trips and generally bleed the trade
for all they can get. Do not be this person.
Make a commitment to yourself, your host
agency, the industry, industry associations
and the suppliers who support you and
commit to one and all that you will do
everything in your power to be the best IC in
Your goal for your first year in business is to
sell one-million dollars of travel. That could
be six world cruises if you have the contacts.
If you are going home, might as well go big!
About Making Money
Ask most veteran travel agents and they’ll
warn you off about the ‘making money’
comment. Typically you’ll be advised that
this is not the industry in which you can
generate much of an income. That would be
very true for many travel agents. On the
other hand there are those who suck it up
and go for it and make five and six figure
incomes. You’ll need to decide whether you
intend to play at selling travel or build a solid
business that will reward you with not only
high commission income but also the travel
lifestyle you want.
The Riches are in Niches
This phrase, the riches are in the niches, you
will hear and read about quite often.
Suddenly the trade has found niche travel to
be profitable. The fact is a niche market has
always been profitable if you know what you
are talking about. The same comment
applies to groups and FIT sales – these are
not new to the trade as some might portray.
Groups have always been the business to
target and FIT is how travel was originally
sold dating from the late 1800s.
There are over 350 niche market
activities and they range from
Archeology to Zoology and
everything in between. That plus you
have over 210 countries and
thousands of places to sell, too.
The point being – find your niche and get
busy. Choose well and for the best results,
choose your own travel passion and
preferred destination/s as your niche
market/s. My own niche markets have
always been outdoors, soft adventure and
my niche destination, Japan.
Working From Home
Personally I have now worked from home for
over twenty years. I know what it takes to do
this and I know the mental state you need to
be in, day in and day out to make it a success.
The office, the layout, the computers, the
software, the printers, the books and
magazines… there’s so much involved and it
must work seamlessly. Too many IC’s choose
the smallest room in the house, go into the
attic or down into the unfinished basement
and that’s the road to failure. If you do not
have a decent office to work in and work
from you will lose interest. It’s that simple.
Unless, you are a true die hard, focused and
do not see the walls closing in… then you will
succeed. Better however that you turn the
best possible room into your office.
Choose the spare bedroom and make it your
office. You’ll need light, window that open,
space, pictures on walls, books on bookcases
– just like an office is supposed to look and
feel. My own office is 20’ x 12’, with 450
business and travel books on those
bookshelves. Believe me you’ll be glad you
made the move. You’ll need separate phone
lines for your home and office. Once again,
keep it business like. You do not want your
clients listening to the family recording or
the dog barking.
Around The House
One of the biggest challenges for ICs is losing
track of why they are at home and then get
involved in household chores. If you are to
be a success in selling travel from home,
then the lawn is not cut until after 6pm or on
the weekend. The laundry is not done until
evening or the weekend – or if it is done
during the week re kids schedules etc., then
take the day off. Your clients will not want to
hear you out of breath and the washing
machine in the background along with the
kids, dogs and lawnmower.
From experience let me tell you – fail to work
a true do not disturb I’m in the office
schedule and you’ll be out of business quite
quickly. It is very important that you live as if
you were ten miles away from home –
except for family emergencies.
Depending upon your stage in life you’ll
need all the support you can get from your
friends and family. If you live alone and like
it that way then you are actually ahead of
most ICs who work within a family
environment. If that’s you, you have some
family meetings to arrange.
Make sure you sit down with your family and
explain to them how your business will work.
That they cannot just walk into your office
and rummage around especially when you
are on the phone or focused on creating an
ad, flyer or sending out emails.
I have heard most of the stories where the
family members do not take their IC in the
family seriously. They joke. They tell you to
stop wasting your time. They call you down
when sales are slow and so on. On the other
hand there are husbands and wives and kids
who support their IC in the family with all
their heart and passion. Why? They want to
travel as and when it’s possible to do so. This
is the best of all worlds. Family members and
possibly friends who will help out with
mailings, consumer shows and more.
You will not be using your personal social
media accounts. Create all new accounts
using your business name. Be very strict
with your social media time as it will take
away from your selling time.
Tools Of The Trade
You will need the best in all things related to
helping you sell travel. Invest in your desktop
computer, a quality laptop, a smart phone
and then study the apps and software that
allow you to produce top quality images,
videos and social media marketing
Existing Agency Owners
Today it is quite possible for you to close
your agency down but carry on as an IC and
encourage your entire agency team to go IC
with you. Needless to say each person must
understand they are now their own boss and
for some that would be a scary move. For
those that trust their selling skills and
marketing talents will no doubt jump at the
When a complete agency team join a host
agency there is that camaraderie that can
prevail and you can still meet to talk shop
and work together on certain promotions
and fill each other’s tour groups. All very
Decision Making Time & Host Agencies
You have a lot to think about and you’ll need
to choose your host agency wisely. Do your
due diligence and be sure to ask all the
questions you need to ask, then make an
informed decision. Whoever you join,
remember that YOU are the client. This
means the host agency works for you. They
are meant to supply you with the program
features they promote to attract you. Make
sure you learn how to use them all. If your
host agency does not perform, then you can
change. Be sure your lawyer reads and
approves all contracts before signing and
you should be good to go home. Always
good to check whether or not you are signing
a contract versus an agreement. If being an
IC doesn’t work for you, you would want an
easy out versus a lengthy court case.
Many of the key points in this article are
expounded upon elsewhere in the magazine.
The Sale Scale
How’s business? Are you closing one booking a day? How about three? Well don’t
worry, your sales will build if you are following the right track. Selling is a science.
There are rules. There are pre-set stops and starts. Success will happen if you
follow the right path. The challenge for many ICs is getting tied up with the ‘nice
to do’ activities versus prospecting, selling and closing. Check out the Sale Scale
below. Where are you on the Sale Scale?
LOVEY-DOVEY WARM ‘N’ FUZZY SOFT SELL
Well-loved and liked and totally broke! You
are social media rich and cash poor. Too much
chit chat, socializing, marketing focused,
engagement focused and having fun. Does not
believe in bothering the client by asking for
the sale. That’s just plain rude! And charging
fees, well that’s just not on. If you are the
chatterbox of the group you may be talking
yourself out of sales each and every day. If
you’re a social butterfly and get a thrill out of
getting more LIKES than bookings then you
too will be well liked but continually broke.
A step up from our Lovey-Dovey IC. Prefers
to leave a trail for the customer to follow
with signs that say, read this, go here, click
there and lives in hope that one day a
customer will follow the exact path being
laid down and book something. Asking for
the sale is not rude here, but it does make
one nervous and what if the client said no
thanks? Customer service is the focus and to
the point of negative sales. Even asking for
referrals is a challenge.
THE RIGHT SELL HARD SELL
Every action is aligned. Customer service is
100% as expected. Social media marketing
always carries quality content / information,
always asks for referrals, and always has a call
to action – advising the client how to proceed
to make contact and place a booking. Direct
email, mail and targeted email and direct mail
are crucial to this style of selling. A well
informed customer makes a well informed
decision and is fully aware that the connection
is one of buyer and seller. Referrals are freely
given. Every interaction ends with a request
for the sale in a professional businesslike
manner. Fees are above standard.
A one-trick pony. Customer service is short
and not-so-sweet unless a client is buying
something. Sells once and never again. Too
pushy when asking for referrals. The word is
spreading about the hard sell tactics and
slowly but surely the customer base is
moving away over time. The hard sell can
work for a time but after that the bookings
stop coming. Fees lean towards the gouging
The Veteran IC
So you’ve had enough of owning, managing and running the show. Time to pack
up, sell up and go home to continue your business and travel trade career. Why
not? It’s a gift. You already have the knowledge and the client base – now you
can retreat to your home office, relax with no more rent to pay and no HR
challenges either. The question is: can you work from home?
Does your personality allow for it? Are you a
people person that needs people and a place
to go each day, or can you operate alone?
There are ways to stay connected once you
go home, however they are not the same as
being ‘in the office’ where the action is day
in and day out, where the supplier BDMs
come visit and where clients walk in to chat.
These are things to think about BEFORE you
make the move home.
If going home doesn’t work out, you can
always join a travel agency as a travel agent
if you can stand being managed and few past
agency owners and managers can put up
with being managed after a lifetime of
managing. So once again be forewarned
about going home before you close up shop
and make the move. On the other hand, if it’s
the lifestyle you want – you’ll get it.
To enjoy your IC lifestyle you will need to put
many of the ideas, concepts, tips and tools
you’ll find here in IC Travel Agent into
The #1 challenge is that you now do it all –
no more will someone hand you reports, or
design the next ad, or handle the social
media marketing. It’s all up to you from here
To do it all, generally means taking a hard
look at your client base and reducing it to the
clients who travel often, like deluxe, have a
terrific personality and pay your fees and
their invoice on time. You are designing your
client base and that’s the way to go.
Learn to use Skype like a professional and
purchase the Pro version for a few dollars a
month. The pro version allows for up to 10
video feeds (great for group sales) and the
sharing of screens – which means you can
show someone a brochure that resides on
your computer screen. Here’s to your
continued and long term success.
Click HERE for a home based business
checklist you might like to review.
The Corporate IC
The Corporate IC role isnot for the faint of heart. This is an exacting segment of the travel industry
and it is not forgiving – it takes a very high attention to detail and the ability to think through and
around global catastrophes that will, might and are right now, affecting the client’s trip out and
back home to their family.
There is also huge
potential for any
Corporate IC that
wishes to create a
niche market to
serve the female
owner. Their travel
needs are different
to their male
There are many
when it comes to
As a home-based corporate IC you may not serve the biggest of the
corporate accounts, however you can serve the local business owner,
manager, CEO and Board for the generic business flights, plus their
meetings, conventions, conferences, training, product launches,
insurance and hey guess what? Their vacation travel too.
If you are not a vacation styled IC then you might wish to investigate the corporate travel market
or even the corporate group and incentive sector if planning is a specialty. For the new IC do not
mix the fact that you have planned a birthday party as a credential for planning corporate groups
and incentives. You will die on a very sharp spike if you do. If you do not have hands-on
experience in your past, then set a training goal and go for the certifications that are available
within the trade. You could also explore working remote for an existing corporate agency.
Business Travel News is the best website for you to view. Read the Handbook,
explore the many magazines and special reports they publish for both travellers
and travel management TAs and ICs. The GBTA magazine shown here is also a
must read for the dedicated Corporate IC.
Okay here we go with our first Training Page.
Topic is all about Prospecting
Prospecting has always been a challenge for travel agents and since ‘we’ as in the trade, have
moved from handshakes, to telephone, to email, to websites, to social media and hiding behind
that large screen monitor very few travel agents are actually prospecting assertively. Passively,
yes. Assertively, not so much. This short program should, give you something to think about.
If prospecting is a challenge for you and your colleagues, ask your host agency
to contact me and we’ll arrange a webinar or onsite training session.
The Pro Office
When you put your home office together you should choose the best room in the
house and equip it as though you intend to be in business ten years from now.
Anything less means you are not quite serious enough to make your home based
agency a going concern. Here’s what you’ll need to do it right.
The creation of a home office is like learning
to play the guitar. You buy a cheap one to
learn on with the underlying reason for going
cheap being that if you don’t take to the
guitar, you haven’t invested too much
money. Fact is, cheap guitars are hard to
play. They are made for cheap, not to keep.
Your fingers become sore and you give up
the guitar whereas had you purchased a
better guitar with a smooth action fret board
your fingers would glide across those strings
and you would be announcing your next gig!
Back to your new home office travel agency
and why you must go for best – the best you
Choosing The Office Location:
If you are single you can make all the
decisions, if you have a family then there’s
more discussion on where you might be
“allowed” to set up shop.
From personal experience and from my
conversations with travel agents who have
gone home, many times the home-based
agency location is relegated to the least
promising location in the house. Over the
garage, in the unfinished basement, the
room with no windows or ventilation and up
in the attic that becomes a sauna in the
summer months. Selling travel is a creative
enterprise and what you need is creative
space in which to generate sales.
Here’s my own office which has changed
dramatically from the office in the second
bedroom that looked into the apartment
Things you learn along the way are: you need
light. You need desk space around you and
another desk area where you can layout
your projects. Bookshelves and filing
cabinets are a must and a very comfy chair
tops the list, too. Overlook green space if you
can or at least be able to view the sky.
Windows that open to let in fresh air are a
plus and quality lighting is essential when
On the walls have artwork and photographs
that please your eye and offer a connection
of some sort. I have portraits of my long lost
family on my wall and often have a chat with
them – freaky I know but hey it works for me.
If room allows, have another easy chair
where you can relax, tune out and perhaps
tune into some tunes.
The Office Tools
Remember that cheap guitar? Well keep it in
mind as you furnish or update your working
tools. Here’s the list working from the top of
the photograph down:
Multi line telephone, with headset plus all
the Telco bells and whistles re conference
Large computer screen, ergonomic
keyboard; scanner; laser printer with double
sided and booklet printing capability; inkjet
printer with DVD printing functionality; mini
notebook/netbook for travelling to client
meetings and finally a pen-tablet (Wacom)
for high end creativity/photo production.
You will also need a quality smart phone with
an 8mp camera and HD video and a similar
quality camera for better quality images.
The ability to shoot excellent photographs
and HD video is a skill worth studying. It will
serve you well over time. Once again you
should purchase quality equipment.
Your PC should be able to receive a TV signal
so that you can watch travel programs in
your office. This is ongoing education and as
you know there are many travel related
channels and programs. Having these
programs ‘on tap’ will keep you up to date
with what your clients are watching. The
program content also spurs ideas for your
Your Pro Office Away From Home
When you meet your clients away from your
home office you should have a host agency
location to go to, or a location that offers
parking and coffee. Many hotels are now
converting the lobby into meeting space to
serve the current needs of younger
corporate travellers. Hotel lobbies are now
places to interact, use your laptop via wifi,
purchase a gourmet coffee and meet clients.
Be sure to review the best hotel lobbies for
your own needs.
The Pro Auto Office
You’ll be driving to meet your client at your
chosen hotel lobby or at their home. Your car
can be equipped with a variety of in-car and
in-trunk kit so you can carry brochures and
operate your laptop from the passenger seat
once you park.
Your job now is to update and upgrade to the
pro level and when you do, you will actually
sell more travel. Now let’s explore the tools
you need – business and creative software
programs that will help you stand out from
your competition. But first… family?
If there’s one BIG challenge for new ICs to overcome it is usually family input and
how well family members have bought into the new enterprise taking space in
the family home. Generally most families gather round to support you, however
many of the home-based ICs I chat with have had the opposite experience,
especially Mums. It’s worthwhile calling a family meeting to review your home-
based agency business and establishing a few rules.
You must ask your family to respect your business, not to interrupt, to take on extra tasks and
train them how to take messages and generally to support you – or they’ll be left at home when
you decide to travel! When you close a sale – tell them and show them how much you made.
Then the ‘business’ becomes real.
Hey Mum… can I
watch you work?
Hey honey… I’m hungry,
what’s for supper?
Hey Mum… did you
wash my special socks?
Hey owner, I’m
hungry, too -
what’s for my
Hey Mum… some guy
just called, something
about thirty people on a
cruise. I told him to call
back another time…
DIY FAM Trips
What goes around comes around. Back in the day you could write your own
tickets, add an IT code, take off and go see what you were selling. Did I mention
that it was free? Today, sheesh wouldn’t ya know it, you have to sell something
in order to go taste what you sold. The nerve! Well, be thankful it’s not full rate.
Are you taking advantage of low fares and free rooms to build your destination
and supplier knowledge so that you can sell more travel? Time to plan your Fam
Today there is no need to wait for a supplier to
wave their FAM ON flag as you can pretty much
design your own Fam and then get travelling.
You should do this with purpose, if not, then let’s
just call this trip a vacation. A FAM trip should be
leading you towards more sales of the
destinations you visit and the supplier’s products
that you sample during the FAM.
As an IC you are free to decide for yourself which
places you should visit and which suppliers you
want to experience. Over and above what you
create for yourself, there will be various offers
from your preferred suppliers for you to
consider. To do it right, means planning your
FAM Plan and visiting the areas that you intend
There are FAM websites for you to explore too.
For a few dollars a month you can subscribe to
www.famnews.com and receive their listings.
Another would be www.famconnection.com
and one more, www.famrates.com. How easy is
that? It looks like the work is all done for you. All
you have to do is book and go - then come back
and sell. Keyword – SELL.
When you are on your FAM you should be
communicating back to your clients, keeping
them posted on the destination and then follow
up when you return to home base with a full on
Remember – FAMs are not vacations. They are
business trips and there are rules to abide by.
Be sure to check them with your host.
Here’s something you should know. The three top ways we learn about new
brands and products. Viewing the internet is number one followed by TV
advertising and third is recommendations from family and friends. These are
followed by retail stores and magazine advertising. (Source: Ipsos)
What does this mean to your marketing-
from-home efforts? First off, this
information screams build a fantastic
website that offers more than that static old
clunker so many ICs offer their clients and
then push this fabulous new website as the
go-to website for your clients and their
referrals. You’ll need to feature quality
content that includes your current travels,
new and updated information and the latest
Next: you cannot afford to advertise on TV
but you cannot afford not to watch it and
take note of which travel companies are
advertising and the trips they are promoting.
With this information you can focus on more
affordable means of marketing to sell the
same brand and trips – and in doing so, you’ll
know that most of your clients would have
seen the travel promotion on TV. You would
be riding on the TV ads of your preferred
Recommendations by family and friends has
always been part of the travel sale and this is
why you always ask your clients for referrals.
You do this in person, on your website, in
your emails and throughout your social
As you are selling travel from home we can
bypass the comment about retail stores, and
move on to the comment about magazine
advertising. You may not be able to afford to
advertise in glossy consumer travel
magazines, you could however create and
publish your own magazine (like the one you
are reading) and fill it with you own ads. All
your need to do this is a little artistic and
layout talent and a magazine platform such
as Issuu.com. It’s not easy, but it is doable.
This then is your initial marketing plan:
1. Watch TV – study all travel
programming, especially the ones that
match your niche.
2. Read as many consumer travel
magazines as you can… especially Conde
Naste, Canadian Traveller, Travel &
Leisure, National Geographic, all cruise
magazines…for niche markets go for
Explore magazine or similar.
3. Promote the same destinations &
products on your website and in your
emails, e-flyers, direct mail,
presentations, consumer events and
anywhere else you promote.
Marketing travel is relatively easy. You just need to understand what’s going on around the
world and specifically at your preferred destinations – this includes seasonality, public holidays,
local events, political events, religious festivals, entry and exit requirements, flights schedules
and a couple of other tid-bits. Then you can select your supplier, choose the product, dates,
location – then write your copy, add one or two terrific images or video and launch.
How social media marketing, social networking, marketing and selling travel
come together is still generally misunderstood by many in the retail travel
industry. This quick overview should help you establish your social media
marketing plan that you can manage from your home.
Travel trade veterans will know this and new ICs need to know the history of social media and
how it works as a marketing tool in the selling of travel. The main challenge for travel agents in
the use of social media is choosing followed by using. There is a genuine mistake being made in
assuming that social media will both attract and close the sale. Closing the sale is YOUR job. It’s
the reason are you are in business. Social media is simply a mass market communication tool
that spreads the word. That’s it.
EMAIL is your number one communication,
marketing, engagement tool. Learn how to
use it like a professional. Take courses if you
There is nothing wrong in sending well
written text messages as long as they are
short, persuasive and direct your reader to
do something such as call you, visit your
website to view a specific page or download
a flyer or brochure.
Better still would be that you send quality
and professional looking emails using ready
to use templates from email companies such
as Constant Contact or the recommended
program offered through your host agency
Facebook is the number one social network
and therefore the one to use as most of your
existing clients and clients to be are
Marketing is a numbers game. The more
people you meet, chat with, socialize with
the more contacts, leads you will generate.
This is the main outcome to any social media
marketing you do. Your goal is to increase
the number of LIKES and at the same time
increase the number of email addresses
when you can.
All marketing roads point to a huge email
data base that by giving you their email
address, your contacts have opted in and
agree to receive your emails.
CHOOSE FACEBOOK AS
YOUR #1 SOCIAL MEDIA
The video and more so the travel video has
become one of the most used formats for
getting the message out that does not
require reading thousands of words. You
click, you look, you see, you understand, you
want it and then… and then that’s where you
Your videos should always carry a call to
action message and preferably that message
is delivered by you, live and in person at the
end of the video clip.
The mobile screen and the computer screen
are the two main screens where your video
will play. You can add video to you Facebook
posts and marry the two most powerful
social media elements in one posting.
Okay then. You get it. You understand that
social media is all about attraction and
engagement. Now the real work starts which
means you must follow up, start a live
conversation with your prospects and
existing clients, promote and tell your story
and then close the sale by asking for it.
Believe it or not the average consumer in the
buying mindset wants to talk to someone
who will listen, ask questions and then sell to
them (based on the travel agents extensive
travel knowledge) what they are looking for.
Social media does not close the sale. Keep
this comment top of mind now and forever.
Closing the sale is your job. If anyone tells
you otherwise, they’re selling snake oil!
CHOOSE YOUTUBE AS
YOUR #2 SOCIAL MEDIA
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A
IT DOES NOT
CLOSE THE SALE!
E-Mail is Your #1
How does that grab you? E-Mail is your #1 communication - marketing tool. Then comes social
media, followed by newsletters, the telephone etc. Did you think the #1 position was Facebook
or Twitter? Nope. None of the social networks get a foot in the door. Email is number one and
that means you MUST learn how to use it properly and from a sales and marketing point of view.
Like social networks, e-mail too can become a format for easy going chit chat. That’s great
however your email is best used as business correspondence and with that comes a certain
degree of professionalism, etiquette, e-marketing knowhow, design, layout and use of ready-to-
send email templates.
If you are using Gmail or Yahoo mail or Hotmail… that’s okay but you
need to ramp up the professionalism, bite the bullet and create a .com
email address and learn to use MS Outlook. The latest versions are a
marketers dream. Also, Windows Live Mail can be very useful when it
comes to creating and emailing photo albums. In fact WLM actually has
a Photo Email layout ready for you to click on, add your images, title
the photo album and email it to your targeted email list. Nice!
Once you click on the Photo Email
and Photo Album you can select
your images and then watch them
populate your album. You name
the album you are creating and I
have titled this one Japanese
Secrets and in the subject line I
have advised the recipient that this
email is about “…our tour to
Japan…” next spring. The email is
targeted and sent to clients who
are Japanophiles, past visitors to
Japan and clients who have shown
an interest in the Orient in general.
The essence of the tour is to view
areas that only I know and in my
case, through family connections.
There are many travel agents who
have done well using simple text
based emails to generate sales.
Using email as your delivery service is the way to go. You can
attached, link to or embed all sorts of things ranging from
PDFs, to letters, to video, photos, agreements, coupons,
puzzles, hyperlinks, e-books, maps… whatever you want to
send as long as it’s not made of plastic and in a box… you
can send it. Follow up skills are very important.
The art of plain text and selling travel is
found in the words and phrases and the
ability to tell a story, paint a picture using
just the written word.
By teasing your client with a tasty and
attractive story that lasts a paragraph or
two, you then use the famous Read More…
link to direct your reader to your website
where they can finish the story. Better yet,
the Read More page informs the reader that
you will deliver the rest of the story at a
consumer event – which is the best form of
Using email to establish this type of meet
and greet, presentation, consumer night is
what every IC should be doing at least once
each month. Naturally you ask your clients to
bring their friends.
The Email List
If email is to become your marketing number
one then you will certainly be focusing on
increasing your email list. This is a focus that
seems for many ICs to have gone in favour of
collecting LIKES and Followers and
You can build an email list through social
media marketing and that’s an excellent way
to do it – fast too if your promotion catches
on and goes viral. What you cannot afford
to do is offer free trips and huge discounts to
attract those email addresses. Far better to
offer something of value that does not cost
you a cent. Most email marketing trainers
will advise you that a simple two or three
page white paper is very attractive to most
people especially if it answers their burning
You can attract more email addresses by
offering a subscription to your newsletter
and perhaps your host agency has one ready
made for this very purpose. You should
always make use of the host agency tools
and at the same time, add to them. In other
words you would create and write your own
newsletter and the content would be based
on your last trip, your upcoming Fam and
your group tour that’s going to Europe soon.
If your personal newsletter delivers quality
information that’s exciting to read, you will
build a decent subscription list and here’s
where you use social media to increase the
list, too. You ask your newly subscribed
clients to tell their friends that share their
social media networks.
Grouping Emails by Niche
Through a combination of follow up emails
and telephone calls you will eventually be
able to group your customers into a variety
of email groups / folders. Some clients will
be located in more than one group folder.
They might be cruise fanatics but also
interested in hiking Inca trails or some other
soft adventure. Once grouped, you can start
to target e-market.
There are companies such as Constant
Contact that provide you with an email
marketing program that includes event
marketing, social tools and surveys. You
create, edit and send, choosing the email list
of choice. If your promotion is a cruise then
you click the cruise email list. Simple. You
will receive Constant Contact’s post email
reports - you then view your metrics to see
who opened and / or forwarded your email
and then you can follow up, sell and close.
Make sure you read this
What’s Your Value?
Understanding Your Value to Your Host Agency
Guest article By Mike Foster
The goal in any relationships should be to seek balance; a win-win to use the age-
old adage. You seek that with your clients and your suppliers, and you should
seek that with your host-agency. Without that balance, any relationship is at risk.
To be able to develop a win-win relationship, it is critical that both parties
understand their value to the other, and to also see that balance from both
It is also important to keep in mind that
measuring your total value to a host agency
is not an exact science. As in any
relationship, there is give and take. But also
like any relationship, if it doesn’t balance
over time, things will fall apart.
If you are not receiving full and fair value,
you will likely leave and so will your clients.
If the host agency is not realizing value in
having you as a member of their
organization, you are not likely to get the full
support you need to be successful.
Show me the money?
But it isn’t always about the money, is it?
There are other ways that your host can
support you beyond the obvious one of
revenue-share and vice-versa - how you
support your host.
Depending on your personal circumstances,
these ways will change over time. For
example, training and support is likely to be
more important at the outset of the
relationship. As your business matures, your
focus may change to marketing, lead-
generation, and using the available tools. In
time, the focus may be more on the actual
revenue that you retain from your sales, and
less on other issues. The mission is to find
the right balance, and then to change and
Do you know how much you contribute to
your host? Do you know how much you
“cost” your host in terms of time, resources,
and overall impact on their business as a
whole? Understand your “impact cost” and
it will be easier for you to not only select the
right host-agency fit for you, it will also help
you build a win-win and valued relationship.
Your value can be measured in obvious and easily measured ways, also in more
subtle ways that may be difficult to quantify – here’s a checklist:
Revenue – The revenue that is produced
from your sales is the most-obvious
measurement in your relationship with
your host. Revenue is the foundation
and focus of almost all independent
contractor programs. But your value
goes beyond just your revenue…
Preferred Supplier Sales – The sales you
produce can help a host reach their
targets for overrides and incentives.
Alternatively, your non-preferred sales
with specific suppliers may also harm the
host’s ability to reach preferred targets.
Because of the nature of incentives, the
challenge for your host is to measure the
true impact of your sales. The key is to
understand how your non-preferred
sales will affect your host, and while you
may want to consider changing the non-
preferred suppliers you sell, you may
even want to seek a host that supports
the same suppliers that you do. In that
way your sales will be aligned with your
host’s and everyone can benefit.
Marketing – One of the less-obvious
benefits that you can bring to your host
is in marketing the host organization
even if you don’t want to market for your
host. As one of the “faces” of the
organization, it happens. You are in a
position to represent the host agency in
the marketplace, and you can be a
positive face for the company which
helps to build credibility and interest for
you with other independent contractors.
Recruiting – You can make significant
impact by helping to attract other ICs to
your host. In doing so you not only help
your host agency, but you are in turn also
helping yourself by growing your host’s
volume and relationships with suppliers.
Attitude – As with any group or
organization, by simply having a positive
and supportive attitude you can affect
the attitude of others. Particularly if you
are viewed as a leader in the company or
the industry, your own attitude toward
the host agency and your colleagues can
greatly influence the way the host and
the independent contractors interact
and support each other. A positive
attitude is infectious.
Helping others – By supporting other
colleagues within a host agency you have
the opportunity to help fellow ICs deliver
service excellence to their clients. You
are contributing to both the host agency
and its members.
Niche or specialization – You may have a
skill or niche-focus that further supports
the host’s corporate objectives, or you
may help fill a void, adding to the host’s
offerings to the travelling public, a new
service or product.
Brand-building – One of the objectives of
your host agency is to build a brand
within the agent community. With your
help in brand-building - you, your fellow
ICs and the travelling public benefit.
It is easy to look at the relationship from the WIFFM (what’s-in-it-for-me?) perspective, but in
seeking a win-win, it is important to remember your role in supporting your host and do all you
can to support the host agency in reaching the collective goals of everyone connected. By doing
all that you can do to support the host agency, your fellow ICs, and the preferred supplier
relationships, you are not only going to maximize your revenue but you will also be raising the
profile and influence of your entire organization at the same time. That will also lead to better
support, increased marketing, better problem-resolution, a better profile and reputation for all,
and of course – increased personal and corporate value and commissions!
Whether you are a veteran travel
professional or just starting your home-based
agency, you know from experience that first
impressions count. Although many
companies have dumbed down their dress
code, there is nothing better than dealing
with a well-groomed, well dressed sales
person who has the knowledge, can offer all
the right services and has total command of
all the latest sales, marketing, planning and
Look good, feel good, sell good. That has always been
my motto when it comes to doing business. In the
moment you can always remove your scarf or your
outer jacket, your tie. If the meeting warrants it you
can attend dressed in business casual. Watch the
perfume, cologne and aftershave. As you know or
should know, too much perfume empties the room! Other first impressions are formed when
you respond to a client’s questions, engage them initially, offer your travel history and attempt
to show how good you are searching online.
You should be, must be, well practised in
every aspect of meet and greet, espousing
your bio, work and travel history and know
when enough is enough. Well practiced
means your responses do not sound canned,
although you have spent hours getting it
Well practiced in terms of articulating your
knowledge means that, once again, you have
rehearsed your dialogue enough times that
your mind will go deep into the subconscious
and find what it is looking for. Your body
language will also be well practiced so that
you can meet and respond to almost any
interaction or surprise with Clooney cool.
When a client visits your Facebook page or
any of your social media pages they should
not find you ranting or OTT’ing on anything
or anyone. All social interactions should be
businesslike and guaranteed to generate
Handshakes in the social media world? Yes
they will still occur. Practice your handshake
too. In addition to how you look, smell,
dress, groom and where your eyes dart –
your handshake can either make you a friend
or lose a client for life. For more on
handshakes click here. The IC always delivers
a professional first impression.
There are well over 250 different niche markets
for you to consider, PLUS if you were to go for
a niche destination, another 200 more
countries and tens of thousands of places to
add to that initial list. Then you also have to
factor in each of the twelve months of the year,
seasons here and seasons there and don’t
forget the target audience variables ranging
from seniors to Generation Y and everyone in
between. As you can now imagine, choosing a
niche market takes planning.
The secret to choosing a niche, is to focus on the things
you like to do and the places you like to visit. Better still
if you know a place like the back of your hand, speak the
language, know the culture and know the special places
that are safely off-the-beaten- track.
If your niche is an activity like photography, or belly
dancing, or rock climbing or visiting museums then to
maximize your revenue you’ll want to be able to state
that you are an “expert” in your field.
Let’s take cruising for instance. If this is your niche and
you have cruised at least ten times then you have the
experience that first time cruisers would be seeking. If
you have cruised 75 times even better. Now, if you have
cruised 25 times to Mexico or the Caribbean and
completed a variety of itineraries on a variety of ships
operated by different cruise lines… well now, you are
definitely worth talking to aren’t you.
Add to your cruise history one or two certificates such
as your MCC and now look at you. You have cruise
experience and you have letters after your name, too.
That is a powerful combination.
Whatever your niche turns out to be, gain any and all
specialty training credentials that are available. Not all
are free, so you might be required to invest your own
money and that’s not a bad thing.
Filing Cabinet Folder
Believe it. This is one of your must do action items. Under My Documents, right
click and add a New Folder. Title it: Filing Cabinet. From here on, everything you
capture and copy is filed away here in this Filing Cabinet folder. Operate it just
like an actual filing cabinet and create new folders and label them correctly so
your documents are easy to find.
First things first, create a list of topics or
headings that you know you will represent what
you generally capture and want to save. Your list
will serve as your initial folder labels.
Cruise would one. Tour would be two. If you like
the adventure niche then Adventure would be
another label and on it goes.
You will need a folder for Marketing Ideas and
within that folder other folders labeled Social
Media for generic information. You should also
have one folder per the Big 2 social networks –
they would be Facebook and YouTube. Add
others as you find quality how-to information.
Another folder would be labeled Slogans.
Capture as many slogans as you can from your
preferred suppliers brochures, emails and
promotions. Every slogan will prompt your own
creative juices for when you need a new slogan
for your next marketing push.
A folder labeled after your host agency is
required and all agreements and contracts filed
there. Same thing regarding any business
licenses and legal documents.
So let’s assume you’ve got this underway – now
you must set up a back-up system and check this
folder so that it is continually back up to an
external hard drive or to the Cloud if you are
renting space in space. That way, you are still in
business after theft or fire etc.
Start now. Don’t delay. This is important.
In my own digital Filing Cabinet I have 206 folders that hold my contacts,
tourism data, new ideas and resources, business planning and more.
Filing your finds in this folder needs to become habit. Once it does, you
only look in one place to find what you are looking for.
The agency website is the central element to all your marketing activities. It MUST
look good, offer quality information, be easy to navigate and cause your clients
to continually return for travel ideas.
Here’s one of the best
travel agency websites
that has won more
than a few awards. It’s
a UK travel agency and
over the years they
have morphed into the
current view you see
here. The name of this
agency is: BLACK
TOMATO… only in
England you say?
They have a way with
words – the usual
About Us is shown as
Why Use Us. They
offer instant contact
information at the top
of the home page.
Their client validations
are there too. They
offer you choices,
suggest places to visit,
you can subscribe,
they tell you their
niche… it’s ALL there
on the home page.
Sure beats those very
confusing travel web sites we see that are littered with “stuff” and a booking engine center page.
Take a look on the next page as to what awaits a client when they click on the Browse By tab. It’s
brilliant, entertaining and upbeat.
After clicking on the Browse By tab you come to
this page and the fun part is you can scroll to set
your month of travel and then scroll through the
Again the word-smithing is excellent with the
button that says: TELL ME WHERE TO GO.
When you click on any of the CONTACT buttons
you end up here on the page shown below. Once
again, it’s well thought out in terms of the
questions. Literally you could generate a booking
from the client’s responses.
In addition the website
makes excellent use of slide
shows and wonderful
images and different fonts
for the text.
When you work from home
your website is your agency
window – the digital version
Keep this top of mind. Your
website must act like a
window on main street. It
should show off your
products and tease the client
with the services they can
Complete your due diligence now. Look at your own website. Better still
have a professional look at it and suggest a few changes to make it more
engaging. Everything you do in terms of your marketing and social
media activity will be pointing your clients to your website. You have
about three seconds to grab them and hold them to your website.
Remember this, 60% of what makes us buy is colour related… blues,
yellows, greens… so be sure to use travel colours and beware of the red
and grey combination which is very hard to read.
Try the website
builder I use. It is
cost efficient and the
Pro version allows up
to 10 websites.
Tools: Google Maps
Who knew these wonderful tools would be created just for you? Yes indeed,
Google Maps is an ideal tool for any IC who wishes to conduct a couch potato
FAM trip. How about that. You can tour the world, “walk” the streets and stop in
front of buildings, cafes, rivers and even look at the ocean and all without leaving
your office chair. Even better – Google maps allows you to create a tour itinerary
right there on your computer screen.
To access Google maps – click on More, then Maps and you are into the program. Google has
updated this APP and so now you have two choices – the latest version or the Classic Map layout.
Once you become familiar with using Google
Maps or Google Earth, you can then your
clients by taking them on a digital tour as they
sit beside you and look at your computer
screen or through a share-screen app.
The satellite view gives you top down views
of the world. One way to use this feature is to
zoom into that beach resort you want to
show your clients and then, right there on
your screen you can conduct a show and sell.
Check this image – you could even point out
the unit where your clients are staying.
Tools: Fonts & More
Become a font aficionado and study up on slogans and you will be way ahead of
those that are committed to never using more than Arial or Times Roman. In the
world of social media, blogs, videos and all things printed the art of graphic art is
the art you’ll want to spend time studying.
It pays to know which word (or two) to add to a sunset and which font to use. The entire image
is made up of the photo, the word, the font, the layout, the colour, the border… and once you
learn what works, you will gain more attraction traction which should equal more social
connections which should lead to more sales. That’s plan A. Plan B as usual is to simply send an
email and ask for the sale! But I digress… to Font or not to Font, that’s what we’re on about here.
Type one word, a travel word, highlight it, then click on the down
arrow beside the Font and scroll down the list to view the various
font choices. Think about the reader and the impact your font will
have. You can stay at a 12 point sizing or you can go large and go
for 72 point, or more. You just type in your size, let’s go for 100
and see how that looks. Oh yeah… that’s nice. Gotta go large.
So you get the idea. Study the fonts that best promote the word
and words you are using in your slogans and on your website, in
your blog etc. You want your reader to immediately respond.
You can purchase additional fonts online, you can create your own font, your handwriting style
can be tuned into a font and there are free font websites to explore, too. PLUS there are alphabet
designs that set in their own design layouts. Next thing to do is to study the layouts and the words
and the fonts your preferred suppliers use in their consumer advertising and on their websites
and social media. They have spent thousands of dollars to get this component of their marketing
correct. Study what they do and emulate it.
NEW Google Maps
If you are sending invoices, itineraries
and anything that you would like your
client to acknowledge, confirm and
approve under signature then you may
want to check out this website.
You’ll be familiar with Google Maps and
chances are you already know about the
NEW Google Maps. If not – now you do.
Learn how to use this fantastic tool and
take your clients on a tour before they
go. Select a resort together, plan the
itinerary, choose the B&B…
Want to create and produce images that
can attract more eyes? Of course you do.
Take a look at BoxShot4. You can put
your agency name on a pop can, on a
book cover, DVD cover, water bottle and
more. Fantastic ideas for social media
Every morning when you sit down at your computer to start your day,
you should watch this video and take it all in, everything. The sights, the
sounds and the energy. This video will set your mind in gear, fire up your
creative juices and get to you ready to sell YOUR world! Watch now…
The BBC Human Planet videos offer a fantastic educational series about the world you live in and
the world you sell. Make sure you check them out. You can start here on this page. Watch the
video here and then for more visit the IC Travel Agent website. They are found under Resources.
Start your own YouTube Business Channel right HERE. Click the YouTube icon.
New Self-Study Workbook
Join the FREE October 15th
Webinar arranged by The
Check out this cartoon strip by Steve Gillick of www.talkingtravel.ca
Think how you could use cartoons like this to tell your story,
attract Gen X travellers and reach out via all things mobile too.
LET’S TALK ABOUT
Steve Crowhurst, CTC
Speaker & Trainer to the Global Travel & Tourism Industry