Travel insights from Rick Zimmerman, President & CEO, KHM Travel Group

Teamwork: There’s No I in Travel Agent

Independent travel agent. The name implies that you’re free from another company’s influence or authority. While you’re bound by the regulations of the industry, you’re free to make your own business and marketing decisions. But that doesn’t mean you’re entirely on your own.

If you’ve made the choice to partner with a host agency hopefully you feel comfortable reaching out to the support staff. Those who are operating out of a retail storefront likely have other agents in the office who speak your language. But who else can you rely on to help your business grow?

Use the Buddy System

The most obvious place to turn for knowledge is to others in the industry. Just last month, I attended the Ascend Conference in Pennsylvania. At an event with 500 travel professionals, there were possible new connections everywhere I turned.

It’s a great idea to have another travel agent that you trust to rely on should you need extra assistance. Despite office hours that may go beyond the typical 9-5, there will be times when you’re traveling or aren’t able to address urgent needs for your clients. Do you have someone as your emergency back-up should you need it? Last year, KHM Travel Group started a new Team-Up initiative that brings agents who live in the same region together for networking and idea sharing. It’s been great to witness the friendships and business connections formed as a result.

Think Small

Another avenue of support is with fellow small business owners. Instead of limiting yourself to finding potential partners that relate to travel, consider your other passions in life. Sometimes referrals come from small business owners in very different industries. Although they won’t understand your frustration with a particular booking engine, they know the importance of building credibility in the community. Every interaction with a client–or potential client–matters.

Help Your Clients Help You

One of the most impactful advertising avenues you have is one that won’t cost you anything. A happy customer is a walking, talking billboard for your agency. And not only are they valuable advocates, they can also be a source of information.

If you’ve never been to a resort but are sending clients there, ask for feedback when they return. Don’t be fearful of revealing that you haven’t been somewhere. Being eager to learn is a sign of dedication to your business and shows you really care about the quality of their trip.

People within an industry are commonly referred to as a community and this certainly holds true in travel. Despite different specialties and brands, we’re all in this adventure together, with the common goal of helping people travel and experience the world.

About the Author

Rick Zimmerman is the President of KHM Travel Group, one of the country’s leading host travel agencies. Rick joined the travel industry fresh out of college where he worked as a travel agent for a small agency in Cleveland, Ohio. After a 25-year career in the construction industry, Rick returned to his travel roots and helped found KHM Travel Group in 2005. Rick is an active advocate of the travel agent community and serves on multiple travel-related Advisory Boards.

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