Lessons learned from counselors who started during the pandemic

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Starting a travel business during a pandemic that has wiped out most travel isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible, as several Travel Market Report advisors have learned after setting up their own agencies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lessons they learned are truths that some established travel consultants might recognize but may have forgotten. When customers are plentiful, as they were before the pandemic, it’s easy to forget the essentials.

Here are some key lessons these new agency owners learned that helped them succeed in what many would call a crazy time to own a travel business.

Remember your why
Starting a travel business when few people travel can be frustrating. But when the going gets tough, remembering why you started the business and finding ways to stay positive are key to getting through the tough times.

“It was time for me to get into business and I had such a passion for travel,” said Dawn Nowlan, former retail manager and owner of a Dream Vacations franchise in Charlotte, Michigan. . Nowlan opened in February 2020, when news of COVID-19 was just beginning to spread.

“When the ground kind of crumbled under us, I still felt like it was the right decision. It was just a horribly scary moment,” she told Travel Market Report.

Despite the uphill battle, Nowlan said she kept asking him why whenever she felt discouraged. As a reminder, she keeps a post-it on her desk with a quote she heard from Royal Caribbean’s Vicki Freed, “Every red light eventually turns green” with the words “remember your why” underneath.

“It’s important for me to stay focused and not be a victim of the situation. I think mindset is everything,” she said.

Focus on the positive
When it comes to mindset, new travel consultant JoAnne Michaud agreed that a positive attitude is key. Michaud purchased his Phoenix-based Dream Vacations franchise in November 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic.

Like Nowlan, Michaud focused on staying positive rather than dwelling on difficulties.

“I believe we all have a choice in life. We can choose to focus on the positive or the negative,” she said. “Instead of focusing on these cases [cancellations], I focus on the positive of new bookings coming in. And those who cancel, I know they will come back when the situation stabilizes.

Michaud added that having realistic expectations when she first opened up helped. “I figured if I make sales the first few years, that’s just going to be a bonus.”

Sam Yaffe, co-owner of Long Island, NY-based Crafty Getaways, a TRAVELSAVERS agency he launched with his partners in November 2020 (their physical location opened in April 2021), calls it believing in yourself.

“When you want to start a business, you can’t be afraid to take risks, as long as you believe in yourself.”

Sharing is the best marketing
With the exception of Yaffe and his partners, who had all worked for other travel agencies before, the advisors TMR spoke to started their agencies without clients. It was necessary to find customers, gain their trust and convince them to travel, all in a context where traveling was considered dangerous.

Many have turned to social media as a way to connect with potential customers. More importantly, they used social media to share their own travel experiences.

“I think the sharing of information and my experiences made them feel comfortable,” Michaud told TMR. She has traveled monthly since July 2021 and has documented each trip on social media.

“When people see you doing that, some think it’s risky. While others, there’s a lot of curiosity. ‘How are you?’ ‘Is it safe?’ It inspires confidence It shows that I know how to navigate entry requirements and what you need to do to successfully travel to different countries.

Nowlan did much the same. “I did a few FAM trips and recorded everything. Showed how safe it was at airports. What are the sanitation protocols at resorts to keep everyone safe. testing…I felt like that helped a lot of people see, ‘oh, she’s over there. Maybe we can do that. And my business really started to grow from there.’

For Nowlan, social media has become one of her main business drivers and she doesn’t expect that to end anytime soon. She has created several weekly social media “events”, including a Travel Reel Sunday, where she posts a 15-second video of somewhere in the world people want to go, and Travel Talk Thursday, during which she talks of what happened during the trip. universe over the past week.

“Things like this keep them engaged and informed, and create an environment of knowing, appreciating and trusting,” she said.

Networking works
Michaud also credits social media for helping her grow her business, but says most of that comes from other people recommending her on social media. Others she met through networking.

“I joined every networking group I could. I literally do one networking topic group a day. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been great,” she said.

At every networking meeting she goes to, she has the opportunity to talk about her latest trip. Not as an official introduction, but just because her network peers know, invariably she just came home from somewhere.

“They love being able to follow this path… They ask questions. It’s not as if the information is imposed on people. It just sparks curiosity,” she said. And it keeps her in mind when group members – or their friends and family – start thinking about the trip.

“Not only do people in my networking groups wonder, but they refer friends and acquaintances saying ‘oh my God, reach out to her, she knows about international travel. She always does.

For Yaffe and his partners, who already have a clientele, networking with travel partners has been key to their success.

“For me, it’s all about building relationships, whether it’s a customer or a supplier. These relationships go a long way… Building relationships can last a lifetime. When we decided to open our own business, I started contacting all my contacts to tell them: this is what we do, can you help us? And each gave us about the highest level of commission because of my relationships with them.

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