The frenetic pace of bookings many advisors reported this summer seems to have calmed a bit, from “not-so-good busy” to “great busy,” as Nexion Travel Group president Jackie Friedman put it.
Even though it’s the good kind of busy now, advisors are still very busy. Friedman offered some advice: “have a system where you can keep on top of a lot of things around a booking, both pretravel, during travel and post-travel.”
Whether the system is electronic or on paper, Friedman said, keep organized and stay aware of key milestones surrounding a booking. When clients are on their trip, pay attention to things that could impact a their experience, like weather and flight interruptions.
“These are things that advisors are doing today that they may not have done in the past, but it’s also something that adds to their value and helps them to justify [charging] a professional fee,” she said.
A banner year for advisors
I spoke with Friedman last week, when she was fresh off her host agency’s annual CoNexion conference, held this year at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.
“The mood across the board, both on the supplier side and on the advisor side, was one of optimism, one of excitement,” Friedman said.
Most reported 2022 is shaping up to be their best year in business, she said.
Indeed, this year, Nexion had a record number of Circle of Excellence winners, with 140 advisors receiving the honor for meeting high sales goals with Nexion preferred suppliers.
Tips on securing suppliers
Friedman also noticed high levels of engagement between advisors and suppliers finding new potential partnerships.
She offered some advice for advisors vetting potential suppliers. First, she said, identify what you want to sell, then find the kind of suppliers that make sense. For instance, an advisor who is looking for suppliers in Europe might pick an escorted tour partner, a partner that allows for more customization, a river cruise line and a few ocean cruise lines.
“Like anything, it starts from the what and then goes to the who,” Friedman said. “What is it that I want to sell, and who can I work with that’s really a good fit for my business, for the demographic of my clients?”
She encouraged advisors to meet different suppliers at industry events, as well, because “they don’t know what they don’t know.”
Nexion grows membership
Nexion itself is currently host to between 5,100 and 5,200 travel advisors in the U.S. and Canada. Before the pandemic, that number sat around 4,700. Friedman said that growth is coming from both experienced and new-to-the-industry advisors.
Looking forward, Friedman said, the biggest hurdle for some in the travel advisor community is charging fees. A lot of doubt that a fee-based model will work comes from “the self-talk” they engage in, she said, to the effect of “Oh, my customers won’t pay me fees.”
But more often than not, customers are more than happy to pay for advisors’ services.
The biggest opportunity is the sheer number of consumers who want to work with travel advisors for the first time.
“Marketing yourself online and offline for the type of customers and products that you want to sell is really critical,” she said, “because there are more and more people looking for an advisor.”
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