As an independent travel agent, finding ways to increase your income probably crosses your mind pretty frequently. You put a lot of energy into marketing and networking. You work hard to ensure your clients have a fabulous vacation and tell all their friends about what a wonderful magician you are. You have your pitch down to a science, and you have counterpoints for every single question or concern a potential client could possibly have. You are on your game. What if you could increase your commissions by simply adding another item to your bag of tricks?
The vast majority of outside agents do not do group travel, and it is a bit mystifying why that would be the case. Agents who do book groups earn nearly 10% more. Perhaps some are afraid of the learning curve or do not want to take the time to uncover the tips and tricks that make booking group travel easier. If you are thirsty for more, we are here to help you give yourself a raise.
Quite simply every industry partner loves a group. Large blocks of hotel rooms and airline seats getting booked light up the eyes of travel industry executives. Many groups will also spend a lot on extras. Weddings, for example, spend a lot on a variety of services a hotel may offer. Many groups will want to do tours and adventures together. Some will light up a bar tab at the hotel. For this, your industry partners will happily pay you a higher commission.
The main reason, though, is they need you more. Many individuals, as you know, are content to book their own vacations online, even though we all know they would have more fun if you did it. Very few people want to book 40 or 50 flights and 20 room reservations from different locations with different schedules. Group travel almost necessitates an agent. It is a far easier sell.
There are two basic types of groups for our purposes, affinity groups, and speculative groups. For example, a book club that just finished every Jane Austen book may want a tour of English manors. A group of girlfriends who like to get away together once a year may be looking to go to the Bahamas. A young couple may want to plan a destination wedding. Those are affinity groups. A speculative group is when you book a block of rooms and then fill them with people who may or may not know each other. When you are first getting started with groups, it is best to stick with affinity groups.
Start out by putting together lists of groups. Think about groups you are involved in. Your fantasy football league may enjoy a trip to the Super Bowl. These should not be limited just to groups that meet regularly. Your family may be ready for a reunion. If you have a big alumni reunion coming up, a fun trip is a great way to celebrate the old times. Consider service groups that periodically have local, regional, and national gatherings. Rejoin any groups you were once a part of that you have since left. Look in your local weekly paper or community Facebook groups for interest groups that get together. Reach out to interest groups at colleges and universities for educational trips. Look to large corporations for business meetings. Be creative! Of course, you need to share the word with anyone you know that you are ready and willing to help put together fantastic group trips. If there is someone who has been burdened with planning the last ten family reunions even though they are not a travel agent, your message will be a tremendous gift.
That person we just mentioned there, the one for whom you are a gift from Heaven? That person is also a gift to you. In the industry, we call them the Pied Piper. This person will be your go-between to help you get everyone's schedules, preferences, and payments. Every group has leaders, and you may have to get a feel for the group before figuring out who the point person is, but it is extremely beneficial to find one.
If you have already carved out a niche for yourself, that does not preclude you from expanding into group travel. Simply focus on groups who may be interested in your niche. If you have any questions, please reach out to us, and if you are already booking groups and have other great tips, please share!