Grow Your Business by Focusing on Existing Business

For individual business owners (a lot of one person companies) the onus is on you to deliver excellence through every contact to ensure you keep and grow the clients you currently have. But for those that rely on others to deliver excellence it can be a bit more tricky. It requires finding people that truly understand and believe what your brand is all about in regards to service and deliverables AND have the talent and dedication to deliver it time and time and time again. Most clients will give you a pass or two on the occasional mistake, late follow-up, or general snafu, but don’t expect them to hang around if you or your team starts dropping the ball on a continuous basis.

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Author: Tony Roberts.  Article Source

ASTA Legislative Day

At Legislative Day 2015, ASTA travel professionals across all segments of our industry will converge on Capitol Hill to speak directly to lawmakers about issues that directly impact travel agents and the broader travel and tourism industry.

With your participation, we can make a meaningful impact in Washington at a time when our industry faces myriad public policy challenges, including those related to airline ancillary fees and transparency in airline pricing, the rollout of “trusted traveler” aviation security programs, regulation of independent contractors, discriminatory state taxes on travel, boosting international visitation to the U.S., and others.

All ASTA members are invited and encouraged to participate. During Legislative Day, you will have an opportunity to meet with your elected representatives and their staff. We will also brief you on the latest developments on policy issues of concern to the travel agency community as well as best practices for conducting an effective Capitol Hill meeting.

Event Starts:  Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Event Ends:  Thursday, March 19, 2015

Meetings: Capitol Hill
Lodging: The Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20007

The Object of Desire: Hotel Companies Target Young Agents

Hotel companies are in a race to appeal to younger travelers and for many that means first targeting younger travel agents.

Brands are adding awards that appeal to younger agents, upgrading their technology, hosting events, and gearing educational programs to travel sellers who are new to the business.

Social media . . . again
Social media, naturally, is top of mind for hotel companies to reach young agents. Old marketing techniques are no longer viewed as effective.

“The use of social media is important, as these are recommendations from trusted colleagues or customers to validate a traveler’s real-time experience,” said Elisa Chacon, Hyatt’s director of global sales for the Americas.

“This generation can see through the marketing copy.”

True stories
Younger agents—much like younger travelers—are fascinated by the stories and experiences behind travel.

“We have found that younger agents respond to stories – and what makes something unique makes those individuals even more eager to share,” said Chacon.

“In our research, it was interesting to find that most of the younger generation sells leisure travel – where stories are necessary to the traveler.”

Education and beyond
It makes sense that younger agents are more likely to take advantage of educational and training and hotel companies are eager to offer it to them.

“When you are new to the business, it helps so much because you have less experience traveling,” said Samarah Meil, owner of Amarillo Travel Network in Amarillo, Tx. “Even now, with 12 years of experience, I find it a great help.”

Meil said her goal is to every year complete new training and education offered by resorts and hotels. She has also earned free nights, cash and trips.

“As a younger agent I appreciate the cash and free stays, as well as the opportunities for fam trips,” she said.  Click here to read the entire article.

Author: Harvey Chipkin Article Source

How to Keep on Top of Never-Ending Education and Apps

Remember when you could count on one hand how many mobile travel apps there were in the industry? Of course you can. It was only a few years ago. But now there are countless numbers of apps being offered by everyone from fellow agents to wholesalers to suppliers to tourism boards. In addition to mobile apps, other travel-related technology keeps rolling out year after year from hotels offering check-in and check-out services on a tablet to digital bracelets that can record a hotel guest’s spending.

“Just like in 2014, technology is going to become more and more important in the travel industry,” says Andrey Zakharenko, owner and founder of Russian Connections, based in San Francisco, CA. “At year’s end, Google and Amazon are close to entering the travel industry, and countless apps are attempting to do more and more for the traveler.”

And once you get the technology thing down, you also have to stay educated on the very thing you sell: the world. “More and more, we will have to be educators on world geography and world events,” says Zakharenko. “In 2014, we had the threat of Ebola taking over the news and creating panic in the nation. Many did not want to travel for fear of catching Ebola. On the political front, we had unstable environments in Mexico [Acapulco], Thailand [Bangkok] and in response to the situation going on in Ukraine, many avoided traveling to Ukraine and canceled their trips to Russia in protest. These are just some of the events that the media jumped. All of these stories lead to many people being scared of traveling abroad. I hope that 2015 will be a more stable year, but we have to be ready to adapt to the changes that will come in 2015.”

The Solution: Learn only what you need to know, but make sure you are learning from the right source.  Click here to read the entire article.

Author: Jenna Tesse Fox.  Article Source

Administration Issues New Regulations on Cuba Travel

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) commends the Obama Administration for taking another giant step toward allowing Americans to travel freely to Cuba. In regulations issued today by the Commerce and Treasury departments, travel agents will be legally unencumbered from selling authorized travel services to Cuba, effective upon publication in the Federal Register, expected tomorrow.

“It is a long-standing policy at ASTA that travel freedoms should not be used as a pawn in matters of foreign policy,” said President and CEO Zane Kerby. “On behalf of our U.S.-based members, we have conveyed this sentiment to the President and current and former administration officials over the past several years, and we applaud their efforts to break down these barriers once and for all.”

Earlier this month ASTA sent a letter to Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary in Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, requesting that those Americans who currently qualify for travel under the 12 existing categories allowed by current law, be allowed to do so through a travel agent without the agent needing to have a specific license. Under the new regulations, which build on the President’s Dec. 17 announcement that would expand travel to Cuba, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is amending section 515.572 to permit travel agents and airlines to provide “authorized” travel services without the need for a specific license from OFAC. Agents must, however, receive confirmation from the client that the travel is authorized, and that certification and other information must be retained on file by the travel agent for five years.

For other questions related to travel to Cuba, OFAC has provided this list of frequently asked questions. For more about this and other ASTA advocacy initiatives, visit ASTA.org/Advocacy.

YPS Members Sara Butruff, Justin Dolan, and Kayla Zeigler make Travel Agent’s “Top 25 All Stars of 2014″ list

With our all-new Top 25 All Stars, Travel Agent magazine has designed a program to recognize those travel advisors who have been the mainstays of our industry for more than a decade. The elite All Stars you see on the following pages have served as travel consultants for at least 10 years and can boast at least $1 million in annual sales. In some cases, they’re producing three or four times that volume, but their one common link is they have been working collaboratively with suppliers for years to diligently delight their clients with one marvelous itinerary after another. Making this list even more special is that the majority of All Stars on these pages were nominated by their agency managers, who singled them out for their productivity, attention to detail, ability to problem-solve and to think out of the box to craft unique vacations. In some cases, advisors who work independently made a case in nominating themselves; their presence on this list was supported by consortia or managers who could verify their skills and annual sales volume. The editors of Travel Agent then culled through the entire list of nominees to select the best of the group. It wasn’t an easy task, but we narrowed it down and here they are—Travel Agent’s 2014 “Top 25 All-Stars.”

Author: Michelle Smith Article Source

Still Adjusting to Millenials? Well, Get Ready for Generation Z!

As the Millennials prepare to dominate the workforce, employers are looking at the next wave of employees – Generation Z.

Born after 1994 (although some researchers utilize slightly different dates), Gen Zs are different from their predecessors in a number of ways.

While the Millennials grew up with the World Wide Web, Gen Z grew up with social media and smart phones. However, Gen Zs are discriminating users of social media and favor more visually engaging platforms that accommodate their eight-second attention span.

Prudent and pragmatic

A new global study, Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations, co-produced by Millennial Branding and Randstad, shows a generation more rooted in prudent and pragmatic notions about how work gets done and what’s needed to succeed than its predecessors.

“Gen Zs have a clear advantage over Millennials because they appear to be more realistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. “Also, Gen Zs have seen how much their parents have struggled in the recession, so they come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

The mind-set of Gen Z was shaped by nearly a decade of war and economic uncertainty, and they graduated from high school just as the economy was on the verge of collapse. Now, they’re entering the workforce amidst constrained resources, increased requirements placed on workers, fewer promised rewards and an overall climate of lower expectations for nearly everyone.

What the Gen Z study shows

Key takeaways from the study show Gen Zs:

  •     Have even more of an entrepreneurial spirit than Millennials and want to be hands-on with                 projects
  •     Are most motivated by opportunities for advancement, followed by more money and meaningful       work
  •     Are mature, self-directed, resourceful and dedicated to making a difference in the world
  •     Expect to switch employers several times in their careers, but less often than Millennials
  •     Have a preference for human connections and face-to-face communications
  •     Want to collaborate in a team, with managers listening to their ideas and valuing their opinions
  •     Find some technology distracting, but like to work with it to help them accomplish their goals
  •     Don’t especially like to multi-task or work in a fast-paced environment

Adjusting to a new generation

“They witnessed homes being foreclosed, so they’re going to be savers, realistic about how things get done and how hard they’re going to have to work to get them done,” says Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer, Randstad North America. “Which will make them more open to new ideas and ways of doing things” and even less inclined to adapt to a hierarchical environment than Millennials.

From day one, Gen Zs are bumping up against a crowded field of “career-delayed” Millennials and plenty of older workers who themselves have had career setbacks and are now competing with younger workers for entry-level jobs. However, as long as Gen Zs have the same chance to succeed as everyone else, all will be well with them.

Expect this population segment to gain a lot more attention as it becomes more influential, represents more revenue to brands, and more challenges – and opportunities – for employers.

This study provides an insightful picture of what employers can use to motivate, drive and inspire this new generation as part of their overall recruitment and retention strategy.

Author: Michelle Smith Article Source

ASTA Lays Out 2015 Advocacy Agenda, Highlights 2014 “Wins”

Alexandria, VA, January 8, 2015 – The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has set an aggressive agenda for 2015 in its mission to be the lead advocate for travel agents who, in turn, are the strongest allies of the traveling public. The agenda includes action at both the federal and state levels, continues work begun in 2014 and adds new initiatives that support free and unfettered world travel.

“ASTA is the only industry organization with the know-how, the staff, the resources and the alliances to effectively defend the interests of travel agencies across the country,” said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “This was reflected in our work in 2014, a banner year for ASTA advocacy that saw us leverage our unique strength as an association before the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies and all 50 state legislatures in the fight to keep the retail distribution channel strong and thriving for years to come.”

The Association’s advocacy priorities for 2015 include:

Ensuring Transparency in the Cost of Air Travel: ASTA will work to ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark rulemaking on airline ancillary fees provides agents and consumers full access to airline ancillary fees and the ability to purchase the complete air transportation product; and will fight airline efforts to insert the so-called Transparent Airfares Act overturning DOT’s full-fare advertising rule into “must-pass” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation in Congress.

Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Travel Agents: ASTA will fight against proposals in Congress and at the DOT that will require agents to make new and unwarranted disclosures to consumers during airline ticketing, such as one in a 2012 law requiring notification that the aircraft their client is flying on may be sprayed with insecticides.

Fighting Oppressive Taxation: ASTA will continue to oppose any state proposals to apply new taxes to agency fees and other income, including proposals to subject service industries such as travel agencies to state sales taxes, and to apply state and local hotel taxes to hotel “intermediaries” such as agents. At the same time, ASTA will work with its car rental partners to enact federal legislation to preempt state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on car rentals.

Cuba Travel: Building on the recent agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries – including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba – ASTA will work with President Obama, Administration officials and the U.S. Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government. While working toward a full repeal of the travel ban, the Association will petition the Administration to expressly permit any travel agent to book travel for Americans lawfully entitled to travel to Cuba under the new regulations called for by the President in late 2014.

Travel Facilitation: ASTA will support the expansion of “Trusted Traveler” aviation security programs, such as TSA’s PreCheck and CBP’s Global Entry, and will ensure that agents have a voice and active role in their implementation. On the international side, the Association will support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which will streamline visa processes for “inbound” travelers and help the U.S. recapture its historic share of worldwide overseas travel.

The highlights of ASTA’s advocacy work during 2014 include:

White House Meeting: In March, ASTA secured a first-ever meeting in the White House to brief President Obama’s advisors face to face on the value of the travel agency channel to both consumers and to the small business-driven national economy.

IATA NDC: The association worked collaboratively with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the DOT’s August approval of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative was subject to a number of consumer protection conditions designed to protect competition and consumer privacy. Going forward, ASTA will work to ensure that agents’ views and business needs are taken into account as NDC is further developed – as a member of several IATA advisory committees as well as a recently-announced initiative to develop understanding of the impact (e.g., from a business, technology and commercial perspective) of NDC for travel agents.

Hazmat Notification Regulations: ASTA was successful in its efforts to rework a burdensome DOT regulation that would have required agents to secure their client’s acknowledgement of complex federal hazardous materials restrictions before issuing an airline ticket. Instead, starting in 2016 the disclosure requirement can now be fulfilled any time prior to check-in, such as by automatically providing it on the passenger’s itinerary. This is a big win for agents, as the original requirements would have added to existing passenger notification requirements travel agents have to comply with regarding code-share flights, insecticide spraying and others issues. These requirements would have saddled the industry with more than $58 million in initial training and programming costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs.

Travel Insurance Reform: Working with a coalition led by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, ASTA and its members have helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 31 states. Members’ grassroots efforts – including committee testimony in Colorado (Rich Sattizahn), Hawaii (Rachel Shimamoto, Wendy Goodenow) and Maryland (Larry Swerdlin, Jay Ellenby) – were instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Once in place nationwide, these standards will save agencies thousands of dollars in annual licensing costs while reducing the risk of state fines for non-compliance. Counting only the 31 states that have adopted the standards, ASTA estimates the collective savings for the travel agency industry to be $7.5 million per year thanks to this reform.

15 Must-Have Marketing Toolks for 2015

The “if you build it, they will come” plan won’t get your business seen in 2015. The fact is, 50 percent of companies plan to increase marketing spend in 2015. So what will you do to get exposure and grow your business this year?

If you don’t have the budget to assemble a top-tier marketing team, you’ll need some great tools to take your marketing to the next level. To help you reach your marketing goals this year, I’ve put together a list of 15 must-have tools to get you started.
1. BuzzSumo

Fifty eight percent of business-to-business marketers will increase their content marketing budget in 2015. To ensure you’re spending your content-marketing dollars wisely, use BuzzSumo to research the content your audience really wants. Just enter any keyword or backlink into BuzzSumo and you’ll get a detailed report showing how well previous content on that topic performed.

Related: 7 Tools to Help Startups Dominate in Large Markets and Compete with the Giants
2. Mention

Want to keep track of what people are saying about you and your competitors? Mention helps you track key phrases and brand names, in real time, so you never miss out on a conversation with current and potential customers.
3. Autosend

If you want to personally reach out to each person that joins your website, you can with Autosend. Autosend helps you automatically send personalized, targeted email and text messages to every customer based on what they do on your website. So anytime a customer joins, makes a purchase or even looks at a particular FAQ question on your website, you can proactively send a personal message to them.
4. Ducksboard

Tracking how many people join your mailing list, subscribe to your service and buy your products each day can be exhausting — without the right tool. Stay on top of your most important analytics from every service you use in real time with an all-in-one dashboard such as Ducksboard.

Click here to read full article.
Author: Sujan Patel  Article Source

Impact of Mid-term Elections on Travel Agency Community

ASTA VP of Government Affairs Eben Peck has analyzed the impact on the travel agency community of a Republican-controlled Senate, and tighter control on the House of Representatives by Republicans, and sent his observations last week in a Member Alert.

The main take-away regarding ASTA’s legislative priorities and their chances under a new regime on Capitol Hill mainly comes down to this—yes, this is a significant change to the landscape, but not a radical one. And the implications are different issue-by-issue.

For example, bills ASTA opposes that would tighten regulations and impose more disclosure burdens on agents selling cruises are unlikely to advance in a Republican-controlled Congress, whereas there could be added pressure now to more heavily regulate businesses that employ Independent Contractors. See Eben’s full analysis in the Member Alert section on ASTA.org.


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