1) Get to know your product. This means doing the legwork, and getting out there.
Or you can cheat and go to TRENZ, but you’re never going to know for sure if the brochures they’re showing you are simply putting their product in the best light, or if they’re for real.
If you’ve visited a product provider, and can report from first hand experience that their “Garden Suite” actually looks over someone else’s garden, whereas their “Lake View Suites” do get views of the lake, but across someone else’s roof, you’re in a better position to be able to manage a client’s expectations.
2) Get to know your suppliers. Again, it’s the small things that count, and a smiling face upon guest arrival is most probably worth more the comfortableness of the bed in terms of visitor enjoyment, because that smile will set the tone for their entire time with that provider. How do you know your supplier’s going to welcome your client with a smile? You’ve got to get out there and meet them.
3) Get to know your client. This is key – a comprehensive brief from them about their likes and dislikes, preferences and tastes, is non-negotiable. Get on the phone to them, at least twice, preferably a whole lot more times. Arranging for them to do a challenging 7-hour Tongariro Crossing when they’re built like a retired gridiron linebacker and usually only manage half hour walks around the local pond, is NOT going to score you points on their feedback form.
4) Which brings me to the penultimate point – feedback. Always ask your client for comprehensive feedback about your services, your suppliers’ services, and about their travel experience as a whole. This is invaluable in helping you to get better at what you do – if you can forward that feedback on to your suppliers, any provider worth their salt will appreciate constructive commentary.
5) CHARGE FOR YOUR SERVICES. This could spawn another article in itself, and I’d welcome feedback from anyone and everyone on this. We’ve wasted so much time writing itineraries for people, never to hear from them again, that we gave up. Now, we spend 15-20 minutes doing an overview itinerary, which gives them an outline of where we’d recommend they visit (geographic place names), what they should be getting up to whilst there (activities), and how much time at each place. We also offer them to chance to request references from past clients.
If they like the overall timeline, route map, and pace, then before we go ANY FURTHER, we take up an front “good faith” deposit by credit card. This shows us they mean business – if we then go ahead and spend another 2 hours writing a fully fleshed out itinerary including accommodation and activity operator recommendations, the chances are they’ll book through us. If you DON’T charge them an upfront fee, then there’s every chance they’ll simply take your itinerary and book it all directly themselves. If they do this after paying your “good faith” deposit, then at least you’ll have made a couple of dollars for your 2 hours work.
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