1. Think local
Contact local organisations with details of events members might be interested in. For example, suggest a trip to the ICC World Cup to the local cricket club, or a weekend in Verona to the local operatic society. “As a tour operator, we’re happy to help agents organise local events such as musical evenings to promote these sorts of holidays,” said Kirker Holidays sales director Ted Wake.
2. Swap events
If clients miss an annual event they are interested in or you can’t get them tickets, suggest a trip to a similar event in a different city or a different event later in the year. For example, if they can’t make the New Orleans Mardi Gras in February, recommend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April.
3. Work with city-break operators
Build good relationships with tailor-made city-break operators who have large allocations of hotel rooms in destinations that host key events, such as Venice, Cannes and New York. Although most prefer to sell flight-inclusive packages, many will sell event tickets and accommodation.
4. Know their pastimes
Find out about your clients’ hobbies and interests and send them details of worldwide events that might appeal to them. If they like reggae, suggest the Sumfest in Jamaica in July. Whether music, dance, sport or festivals is their passion there’s bound to be something going on somewhere to interest them in almost every month of the year.
5. Do some swotting up
Bone up on an event so that you can answer your clients’ questions, said Keith Prowse Attraction Tickets managing director Deirdre Finnegan. “It’s important to know the crucial details of an event or festival, such as who is performing, what’s on the programme, start times, seating arrangements and suitability for children,” she said.
6. Check and check again
“A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so don’t pretend you know more than the client – if in doubt, call one of the ticketing agencies to check details,” said Finnegan.
7. Add to the fun
Push other sightseeing and entertainment options to clients attending an event. “This will not only add to your commission but will also enhance the customer’s experience and enjoyment,” added Finnegan. For example, sell a night at the opera to clients visiting Vienna for the ball season.
8. Put the writing on the wall
Put up a planner in the shop and write in all the year’s major events. Clients might ask about an event without you needing to promote it.
9. Get the message out
When sending out monthly mailshots, contact events organisers to find out what their headline event is and include a lead-in price. “Agents have lots of clients who will be interested in going to the main sporting events but don’t realise agents can help,” said BAC Sports sales manager James Savage.
10. Dress your window
Ask ticketing agents and operators to supply material for window displays or mailshots. “We can often supply pictures of top sporting stars who will be participating in forthcoming competitions and these help grab people’s attention,” added Savage.
11. Keep up to date
Sign up for regular e-mail alerts from Whatsonwhere.co.uk, which should give you plenty of advance notice of worldwide events.
12. Provide closer options
If getting to a long-haul event is difficult for your clients, suggest an alternative closer to home. For example, if they can’t make it to the Kentucky Derby, suggest the Irish Derby at Curragh Racecourse instead.
13. Make it personal
Use your client database to promote events. “If you know a couple are celebrating their silver wedding anniversary this year, you know they’re going to be spending a lot of money on something special. Suggest they spend it on going somewhere amazing,” said Kirker Holidays sales director Ted Wake.
14. Promote special events
Heavily promote special events that tie-in with occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Halloween. The Johann Strauss Ball takes place in Vienna on February 14 and this year’s Mother’s Day coincides with the European Fine Arts Fair in Maastricht. New York has a fantastic Halloween parade on October 31.
15. Target top clients
“Identify your key clients, find out what excites them, and suggest events and holidays they might be interested in,” added Wake. “80% of your business will come from just 20% of your clients so focus on nurturing that 20%.”
16. Don’t get sold on sell-outs
Don’t waste time and energy trying to get clients tickets to sell-out events, unless you can arrange them through a reputable operator. “It’s too risky,” said Wake. “Try to get them interested in a niche event instead, such as Italy’s Puccini Festival, for which you’ll find it easier to get tickets.”
17. Think outside of the city
Hotel rooms in a town or city hosting an event can be scarce and expensive, so suggest clients stay in a nearby location with good road or rail connections to the host city. For example, Nice is a good alternative to Monaco, where hotels book up to six months ahead of the Grand Prix.
18. Sign up for newsletters
Sign up for regular newsletters from national tourist boards, which should alert you to upcoming events. Make them your first port of call for information about dates, where to get tickets and the best places to stay.
19. Avoid risky tickets
Buy tickets from reputable sources. International Festivals Bureau, which sells ticket-only and ticket-inclusive packages to worldwide events – from the famous Verona Operas to the obscure Tuscan Sun Festival – is keen to sell through agents.
20. Look to the future
Stay ahead of the game and look for major events coming up next year and beyond. For example, clients planning to go to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 will already be planning their trip.
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