The travel industry is going through some of the most exciting technological changes in recent history. With almost any service available at human convenience, the travel marketplace is an ocean of opportunities for travel agents who are focused on personalized experiences for their customers. With recent technology trends, the most successful travel agents are those who are aggressive in the way they use technology to sell travel to their clients and manage their business. That is why Trisept Solutions is continuously providing new and innovative products to empower the next generation of travel professionals.
So, how has the growth of travel technologies revolutionized how travel agents run their business? We asked Stacy Billhartz, owner of the successful homebased agency Total Access Travel, and an avid consumer of digital tools to share her perspective on using technology to further her entrepreneurship in the travel industry.
Who is Stacy?
Stacy Billhartz has worked in travel since 2010 and started her own homebased travel agency as an independent in July 2015. She actively holds ARC, IATA, TRUE accreditations. Stacy started her career as a school teacher before joining a retail agency. After years of being successful at selling experiences to eager travelers, Stacy started her own agency to have flexibility over commissions, work hours and the overall work environment. Her dedication and passion for the travel industry has earned her the position as CCRA’s Regional Director for the Midwest, covering 13 states. She also serves as the CCRA’s Southern Illinois Chapter Director, helping the 36 members on her chapter roster grow their travel business.
The Evolution of the Travel Agency Model
Just as digital interactions have taken over the shopping experience in the consumer marketplace, complex travel itineraries no longer require a visit to a storefront. Super agents like Stacy meet in coffee shops and restaurants to meet her customers who prefer in-person travel advice. However, Stacy is just as comfortable meeting her customers through video chat applications such as Zoom and Facetime to reach a broader market. She finds that most of her business interactions are done through email, phone calls and text messaging, whether it applies to suppliers or clients.
Contrary to the sentiment she observed during her times in the brick-and-mortar environment, Stacy has grown to embrace technology and sees it as a companion to her business as opposed to a competition. She uses all social and digital platforms to gain prospects and retain clients.
Specialization and Research
When asked about how to stay in demand when the digital marketplace for vacation planning is saturated with options, Stacy points all her efforts to specialization. She focuses her business on what she knows best: all-inclusive resorts, which make up about 70 percent of her business, while 20 percent is attributable to cruises and 10 percent to European travel. Agents like Stacy are not afraid to pass up clients to other agents in her business who are better versed in other travel types. Having a collaborative digital space to source information from other agents either within the same agency or outside helps tighten the combined pool of knowledge in the agent marketplace. In Stacy’s words, “Do what you are good at – the clients will come and so will success!”
Stacy says it is also imperative to travel as much as possible so that clients understand the commitment to research to help better their travel plans for the future. She travels and posts her activities for them to see. It makes them want to go or even tag along with her! “My clients are my friends – they know I care about them as people not just a sale,” she says.
Trust in Technology
Stacy could not work the way she does today without having a deep trust in technology. She especially values technology she can access while traveling that only requires her to have an internet connection. And of course, having technology that works, works well and is built only for travel agents. That’s how she feels about Xcelerator, the agency management platform developed by Trisept Solutions. With Xcelerator, Stacy finally has one go-to place for everything. It makes it easy for her to book and
The trust factor goes both ways for Stacy and Xcelerator. She uses the product every day, so her feedback on Xcelerator is vital for the team who manages it. She even took the time to show the team the way she uses the tool, by sharing her computer screen with them so they could truly understand her usage. They trusted her feedback, and she trusts them to make it work for her.
What is your biggest advice for agents who are newer to the industry?
- Travel – Get out there and experience (don’t be the travel advisor that does not travel).
- Learn – Participate in webinar trainings, ask questions, find a mentor.
- Social media is your key to new clients – Use one platform well. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
- Invest in a CRM – Work smarter not harder. It will cut down you workload and keep all your clients’ information in one space where you can access it at any time. And keep it updated.