Published on Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Interview: Stephanie Abrams

Two keys to travel agent success: making your agency look like the United Nations, and lavishing a lot of special attention on individual members of groups. Those are the suggestions of Stephanie Abrams, a one-time agent herself who now does motivational speaking and is often quoted in the media. “Agencies need to expand their agencies with people who belong to ethnic and special interest groups,” she told TravelMole. “If they want clients from the Greek Orthodox Church, they need someone from that church. If they want to get into the gay community, they better have someone who is gay.” The reason for courting group travel, she said, is that agencies can multiple their bookings by spinning off other groups. “If you have a goal in 2004 of getting two groups for the year, you’ll have four to six groups a year after that,” she said. But a common problem with agents booking groups, she said, is who to court. “The trouble often comes when agents establish a relationship with one or two leaders, but then they find, a year or so down the line, the leaders are no longer leaders. A new person has come in and they’ve lost the group,” she said. The way to avoid that, according to Ms Abrams, is to aggressively get to know each member of a group. That practice can lead to other group bookings, she said. “You nurse groups along. As they get close to the trip, you send them goodies and reminders, say a key chain or swizzle sticks. So that when the trip actually comes along, they’re really excited,” she said. Small reminders of upcoming trips also can help retain clients who might waiver and decide against making a trip, she added. She also urges agents to utilize their own special interests and talents to find business niches. “Every agent has a specialty, whether it’s cooking or fine wine or crocheting or pets or even reading mystery novels. It doesn’t matter what it is, but that interest is where agents can relate to their clients and create their own little niches. They have something to offer as experts in their own particular area,” she said.

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