When it comes to selling tours and vacation packages there is virtually nothing more important than making the right supplier-client match. For many travel advisors, the qualifying process begins with selecting suppliers.
“The qualities I look for and need in tour operators are responsiveness, ease of use and support,” said Sarah Kline of Time for Travel. “I think more importantly it has to be a good match for the agency and then the client.”
“A tour operator that operates efficiently when we need them to ensure a smooth, efficient process also means a smooth and efficient process for our clientele,” said JamesBerglie of Be All Inclusive.
“Our history and relationship with the supplier, and how well the supplier has handled difficult situations with us in the past – or have not handled situations with our colleagues, as travel advisors are eager to share these experiences on social media – plays a big role for us in choosing the right tour operator.
“Specifically, for us as a small business with only so much capacity to handle during travel issues, it’s super important for us to choose a tour operator who offers complete travel assistance to our guests as well should they need to reach out at all during their trips.”
Kim Cook of Love to Travel, has three main criteria when selecting operators. “First, we look for a tour operator that has an easy-to-use quoting and booking system. ALG Vacations was the first tour operator we partnered with, and they have continued to innovate and provide the best system in the industry,” Cook said.
“With the increases in demand for vacations, it is vital to have a way to quote and book efficiently without having to cut and paste to get the information to the client,” Cook added.
“Second, we look for a tour operator that provides timely responses to our questions and issues that arise. The support system is key with all the myriad issues that are affecting travel right now.
“Lastly, we look for the tour operator that provides the best price for our client on the same package. This would include insurance options that protect us and our clients with guaranteed commissions and easy-to-understand cancel policies.”
To ascertain clients’ specific needs, Cook has those who make requests online fill out the agency’s online Vacation Request Form. “This captures the basic information about the travelers as well as destination ideas, activity preferences and budget,” she said.
For Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations, the qualifying process begins with the supplier partners who work with the agency’s consortium, Travelsavers. “As an agency, we don’t want to hurt our backend agreements and possibly leave some future marketing funds on the table,” he said.
For guided tours, Doncsecz said he has had a great deal of success with the Globus family of brands. “Their variety of product, quick service and easy booking tools are all major pluses for our agency.”
He also recommends the companies within Apple Leisure Group Vacations. “Whether you use Travel Impressions or Funjet Vacations, they have great reservation agents, as well as nice manual editing booking tools, which are available at an agent’s fingertips via the Vaxvacationaccess.com web platform,” he said.
Best Rates and Values
“Finding the right vendor is probably the most important factor in getting your clients the best rates and value,” said Tammy Levent of Elite Travel.
“We take the client’s destination and compare it with at least four vendors. We have vendors that we work directly with in Italy, for example, and in Greece, Egypt, Dubai, Portugal and Ireland. We don’t always use tour operators in the U.S. – we want to give our clients that once-in-a-lifetime experience with those who know their country best.”
Another factor is ascertaining whether a resort used in a package offers “nowalk policies,” so if the hotel is oversold Levent’s clients won’t be bumped.
She also assesses what resort packages can provide her clients with the best amenities and upgrades. “What can that vendor do for me that others cannot and make us look amazing?”
In the end, relationships are key to making the right match. “I always advise agents to create relationships with their vendors, so they know who you are and what your needs are, and will always stand by you and help you with all your bookings,” Levent said.
An Alternate Approach
Cal Cheney of Bucket List Tours puts a high premium on webinars and advice from colleagues to help him match suppliers and clients.
“It seems like the host agencies are all about promoting the vendors who pay them the most and are quick to drop those who don’t continue to pay up, and it’s not based on which vendors are the best for our clients,” he said.
“As a result, I rely on videos and webinars from TravelPulse, plus forums and Facebook sites like Travel Agents Helping Travel Agents, where you can specifically search for vendors based on multiple recommendations,” he said.