Travel Agents

“The days of the order-taker travel agent are over”: Penny Spencer

Penny Spencer

We asked Spencer Travel Group’s Penny Spencer what’s hot in 2018, what is cooling down and what’s icy cold. And boy did she deliver the goods.

Agents, you want to hear some cracking opinions? Well Spencer is your woman. Strap yourselves in, here’s what the trailblazer has to say about the year ahead. We couldn’t say it better ourselves.

Here we are in 2018. We’re still here. Thriving.

So what’s our secret? I don’t think there is a single recipe for success, but each of the businesses in the Spencer Group of Companies focuses on three things: Service, service and service.

Service is everything. I mean, literally, everything.

Every touch-point, every product, every bit of communication, every client and supplier interaction needs to be top-notch.

The days of the order-taker travel agent are well and truly over. In the corporate travel space, we need to add value at every opportunity.

Our responses to queries need to be better, more personal and relevant than Google’s – something only possible if you really get to know your clients.

Get close to them.

Even as online operators become more intuitive with each generation, can they really ever be as intuitive as someone who really knows you?

If I’ve learned anything through my career, it’s that your customers want you to remember them.

With staff-client relationships developing in our businesses over years, decades even, we get to know each other very well. We know precisely what our clients like and, more importantly, dislike.

We know which new hotels, airlines, restaurants, and spas they might be open to trying in a new destination. I hear those interactions every day in the conversations that take place around me.

“Hi Susan. Yes. Absolutely. I’ll book you to London. I know your preferred seat and meal requests, and I’ll get that driver, Don, to pick you up from home at 7.00am to get you to the airport. Would you like me to book that spa treatment in the lounge again? 8.30 sound OK? Done.”

We have a client who needs a room on lower floors because he’s afraid of heights.

Another survived a plane crash long ago and now has very specific requirements as to where she sits on different aircraft types.

We know which couples prefer a pair king-singles, even where to book the – ahem – mistress.

We have another who can’t stand those fiddly, locked-down coat hangers that some hotels have in their wardrobes. Needless to say, he’s never booked in one that has those.

Inhabit that personal client-space free from Google’s tentacles, and you’re well on your way.

More than ever before, agents need to have a niche and a unique selling proposition (USP). What do you want to be known for? What makes you different? Why should I book with you?

Think about how you can specialise instead of generalise. Know your clients, and know your stuff.

As an industry, we need to ensure that our best people stay with us. We need to train, up-skill and retain our staff.

This is a wonderful industry with opportunities aplenty but we should never take it for granted that people won’t move industries. Let’s work hard to identify and develop talent.

I’m a passionate advocate for mentoring and training, and I’ve been asked so many times, “But what if you invest in their training and then they leave you?”. My reply is simply, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

It’s inevitable that people will move around and across this fabulous industry. I love seeing careers develop and people soar, even if it sometimes means I lose a staff member.

As an industry, we have to view this as a good thing as brilliant people bring and add so much value to what we do.

We need to enhance career development opportunities and share our professional experiences with each other through mentoring.

See also: Travel Weekly’s new Launchpad event finally debuts!

Seek out a mentor, or invest in a program like the Travel Industry Mentor Experience (TIME).

If we don’t all work towards raising our standards and levels of professionalism, not only will our brightest and best move on, they’ll leave the industry altogether.


Do you have something to say about 2018? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Daisy Doctor here to share your thoughts.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Destinations

Amsterdam launches new campaign to ban excessive “puking” partiers

A Dutch politician has slammed partying tourists in Amsterdam, calling to ban their “puking’ behaviour. We’re not 100 per cent sure what puking behaviour is exactly, but it doesn’t sound inviting.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

“I go in with a plan”: Travel Counsellors MD on how to make a difference in your business

We’re making a difference today by playing with the office dog instead of working. Ok fine, the only difference is the dog has stopped sooking and is now running around like a maniac.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Big Fat Airline Wrap

If you’re stuck inside on this sunny Tuesday, reading this airline wrap real slow should help you get through it. Or you can make like us and leave early for an “appointment”.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Extreme turbulence leaves 15 passengers bloodied

If the thought of getting caught in turbulence makes you jittery it’s probably best to skip this one.

Share

CommentComments

News

ITB Asia wraps up with record breaking numbers

The only record we’ve ever broken is the office record for who can fit the most potato chips in their mouth at the one time.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Common medications that could land Aussie travellers behind bars

If you don’t wanna wind up arrested for carrying contraceptive pills, painkillers or cold and flu tablets, you’re gonna want to read this.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

PICTURES: We are obsessed with leaf peeping season

Forget cherry blossom season, leaf peeping season is the next big thing and we promise it’s not as perverted as it sounds.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Here’s what the reemergence of ultra-long haul flights means for aviation

Looks like we won’t be hitting up a 19-hour flight anytime soon, and it’s not just because we’re scared of confined spaces. And flying.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Build your clients the ultimate West Hollywood itinerary + earn rewards!

Excite have a wonderful new incentive kicking off this week to make your Tuesday a little more bearable.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

This hotel chain will let you spray paint their walls for the rest of the year

Need a creative outlet but don’t have a canvas handy? Just stay at one of these hotels! You could also just buy a canvas, but what’s the fun in that?

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Flight Centre profits down due to ABC story and EBA negotiations

by Ali Coulton

Flight Centre shares dropped lower than our post-weekend motivation levels this morning as Skroo outlined a cautious outlook for FY19 at the company’s AGM.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Start prepping for a long flight weeks before you leave, according to science

If you hate waking up at 3am because of jetlag, here’s what you have to do to get past it. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t hate waking up at 3am?

Share

CommentComments