Building a million dollar travel business is not unlike building a million dollar empire in any industry. It takes time, it takes a village. It takes grit. But in the travel business there are many paths to building revenue and sales. Avoya Travel released insights last week from its 2019 Wave Season Survey of top producing Independent Agencies to reveal best practices and tactics that work, especially as what is known as — œwave season” in the travel industry approaches. Wave Season is a concentrated, three-month period that runs from January 1 to March 31, and marks the time when cruise lines and travel agents sell the lion’s share of cruise cabins for the year.

Of the surveyed Avoya Network members that produce more than $1 million in annual sales, some 90% begin preparing their business one to three months before Wave. Organization, refreshing professional development, supplier education and strengthening customer relationships were at the top of the list.

Avoya’s survey also revealed useful top tips and best practices from the highest producing Independent Agencies in the Avoya Network. Major themes included product and promotion knowledge, customer contact strategies, and having a system in place to maximize time and organization.

  • ¨Review and update your specialties. I choose only a few so that I can know them thoroughly,” recommended Nancy Miller, Trippin’ Around The World, LLC.

  • Refresh vendor education. CruzDiva Travel’s Diane Bower said, “Being familiar with the products you sell means everything when talking to customers, they want your confidence and expertise.”

  • Know the promotions.”Study the offers. There may be great promotions to bring in new customers, and combining those with the cruise lines’ deals means better client value and more bookings,” said Debra Willms, Travel Works For Me, LLC.

  • Get organized in order to capitalize on sales. ¨Get your office organized and do everything you can now to lessen your time spent on admin,” shared Carol Howell of Bloom and Howell LLC. For example, Janel Fidalgo of Janel Fidalgo Agency LLC makes sure if an existing booking needs flights or an add-on it gets done before Wave.

  • Have a system that streamlines workflow. ¨Everyone needs a system that they’re comfortable with so that their workflow is efficient and that they’re not distracted with non-essentials during the day,” said Gloria Quinan, Classic Travel Service.

  • Use scripts to save time. “Having almost all email communications pre-scripted saves time “ time you can use to take another new client lead,” recommended Michael Gussman of Professional Vacation Planners.

  • Make contact with past guests. ¨I send holiday cards to my clients and make sure to contact all past guests before Wave,” said Beth Leonardt, Vacations By Beth, LLC. Many agents agreed on the importance of making clients aware of special promotions now and getting them thinking about their next vacation.

  • Keep your focus on selling.  ¨According to Rick Amsden of Luxury Vacations LLC, it’s important to reduce distractions and prepare to put in extra hours working. Janel Fidalgo, for example, doesn’t make big plans during Wave. I want to take full advantage of the plentiful Avoya Live Leads being offered during Wave.”

  • Make the most of end-of-year bookings. “While preparing for Wave, don’t give up on selling in November and December,” said Lisa Long of Luxury Vacations LLC. She finds that customers are still looking at and booking vacations now.

Of the fewer than 20 percent of Independent Agencies that said they didn’t have a plan to prepare for Wave, most stated they do incorporate the same or similar best practices and systems year-round. Margie Settler of The Margery Settler Agency, Inc. explained, “I have my calendar set up to touch base with clients every month and I’m always aware of the promotions I can offer the customers I assist within my vendor specialties.”