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Agent Diary: Boost your income by escorting customers on holiday

Escorting customers on holiday has been a huge success. There’s no risk involved, so why not give it a go? says Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley.

To those of you who have built long and loyal client bases, have you ever thought of escorting a holiday?

If not, now might be a good time to consider this.

In the past, we had dabbled, and escorted small groups on river cruises on the Douro, Po, Rhone and Saone as well as ocean cruises to the Fjords. Now we have a UK tour for 20 clients scheduled.

“Transun organised everything, designed flyers, put the itinerary together and were there for support. All we had to do was market it.”

I always thought this was something that appealed to mainly older clients, singles and those who needed a little more hand holding. In the main it is, but this year has proven me wrong.

In January, Transun suggested we escort a northern lights trip from our local airport, so we gave it a try. Transun organised everything, designed flyers, put the itinerary together and were there for support. All we had to do was market it.

We went out to our database and promoted via Facebook and have 22 booked so far. I would never have believed this would work so well – and many of those booked are new clients. The idea has been a great success at virtually no cost to us – and two staff get to escort, for FREE.

Testing the waters

Star Clippers suggested we try an escorted departure to Costa Rica, honing in on its return to this wonderful part of the world.

I had always wanted to go there, and I love Star Clippers, but I wasn’t sure it would work, so I tried a different approach. I sent an email to my favourite clients and mentioned I might be putting this trip together and asked them to let me know if they might be interested.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that within 10 minutes of emailing 30 couples, 10 had asked for more details. We have been promoting this for about four weeks, have 20 confirmed passengers and taken all the best cabins.

“Another bonus of a trip such as this is that pretty much half of the group wants to do more than our package, and have added extra time before and after our escorted element.”

The clients feel special as this invite is select and I’ve managed to get a really lovely group of people to travel with. I will cap the group at 30 as I want to keep it small and friendly.

Again, I didn’t have to do too much. Star Clippers designed a flyer for me to send out and put together a land tour with flights before the cruise in March 2023. Another bonus of a trip such as this is that pretty much half of the group wants to do more than our package, and have added extra time before and after our escorted element. Plus, more than 60% wanted business-class flights!

Opportunity knocks

We are currently working on two more escorted departures and getting all the team involved. We plan Petra and Jordan in October 2023 and a German Christmas market trip. Fingers crossed these are as successful.

“Many of you, and your staff, will have created a following, trust and friendship with your clients. Now is the time to trust in yourself on this kind of holiday.”

What this experience has taught me is that some of our good clients like the idea of the safety net of travelling with their travel agent. It has taught me not to say no to opportunities and to give different things a try. Operators build the cost into the clients’ price, so there’s no real risk. Plus, you can book extras on top of the main trip for additional income and to make it stand out.

Many of you, and your staff, will have created a following, trust and friendship with your clients. Now is the time to trust in yourself on this kind of holiday.


Star Clipper ships

Don’t be afraid to ask!

When I was organising the Star Clippers trip, I was working through my list of clients to approach, and there was one who had previously vowed never to return to the line after a small cabin issue last time.

At first I thought it was not even worth trying to suggest the Costa Rica trip to them, and this client was already booked to return from another trip literally three days before our departure.

But I thought I would send them the invite anyway, thinking you never know what they might say. And lo and behold they booked! This time I’ll be there to make sure all is OK on board. It’s another lesson to remind yourself to never be scared to ask…it could pay off.

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