First off, thank you so much for the time today Chad! It’s always great to connect with you! Chad and I have been working on a pretty cool project that is being referred to as “SPECTRUM.” As a visually impaired person, Chad and I discussed a lot of things with Travel Professionals on working with a client who may be visually impaired. Chad, with your aspirations to be the best host agency for accessible travel, how has the Spectrum project been going?
Amazing! I’m beyond grateful and past excited for the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. I’m even more excited to have the opportunity to share what we’re learning. Andy, I’ve learned so much from you, Kristy Durso, our 50+ agent partners with special needs, hundreds of engaged agents, and our special vendor partners that mere words fail me. As we’ve journeyed together, my understanding has evolved. I’ve discovered the limitations of my comfort level and gotten over them. I realize that serving clients with special needs involves almost no yes or no questions. It’s about understanding. From the scope of their condition to their range of expectations, our duty is to truly understand our clients and their needs.
Learning to ask someone “How blind are you” is tough but imperative. Learning to ask if a person can transfer from their chair to the commode is as essential as it is challenging. Heck, inquiring about how family and friends traveling with them support the client, and what we can do to support the supporters had never even occurred to me. Now, elements of effective communication and much more will be one of the six class courses we’ll be deploying over the next few months in the next generation of our award-winning learning platform. These courses will explore serving those with special needs from a grassroots perspective, emphasizing experiential learning with a hands-on approach.
With the help of our experts and supporting organizations, including Andy Ogg, Autismchecked.com, Special Needs at Sea, AM Resorts, and CLIA, we’ve created and deployed our first generation of consumer–facing tools. Check out https://go.Outsideagents.com/mobility for some free tools you can use today and to get free future updates. Also, please take a peek at the playlist of our first 3 Spectrum presentations at https://go.Outsideagents.com/spectrumvideo. Be sure to leave an email address and will send you more FREE tools and important updates as they become available.
Working with clients that may require some extra assistance can be a bit challenging, what take-a-ways have you heard from Travel Professionals after the Spectrum events?
Agents and vendors are excited. They see that this is about a spectrum of needs rather than just a box to check. People are excited about learning to communicate in new, more effective ways. Ultimately, being a travel agent is, at its heart, about communication. For us, communication is founded on qualification, and nowhere is this truer than when delivering the best accessible travel services through a great host After all, how can you get them what they need if you don’t know what they need?
As agents participate more and more, they become increasingly empowered to provide the best accessible travel experiences. Knowing they have the training, support, and resources needed to get to work lets agents focus on doing rather than worrying. Unencumbered by fear of the unknown, agents are starting to form large groups, family reunions, and even engaging with that community through shows, events, and sponsorships!
Look, no training, resource, or support system is 100% comprehensive because the topic they address is evolving in real-time. Experience is king, right? So, our Spectrum of Special Needs seeks to leverage internal and external resources to get to 99%. Then, we’ll achieve the last 1% by providing an ongoing collaborative environment and continuing education program. Then, because 100% isn’t enough for us, we’ll go to the next level by providing process and marketing support. After all, a special program from one of the best host agencies and their top agents deserves attention, and that attention should drive business.
What? Make money off people with special needs? Yes! That was a key takeaway for me. I learned that 83% of families with special needs won’t vacation next year over concerns about caring for their loved one. 92% would, however, do so if they knew their travel advisor was trained specifically in special needs travel. Here’s the kicker: they spend 38-61% more per diem than other travelers! Through Spectrum, our reward comes when we change this horrible statistic, provide whole families with a fantastic experience in a safe environment, and put joy in the hearts of those we serve. The extra commission on each transaction is just icing on the cake for travel agents specializing in accessible travel.
What one thing, specifically, would you recommend to a Travel Professional as we keep an eye on 2022 and hopefully a full recovery to our industry?
Lean on your host. That’s why they’re there, to help you.
Seriously, reach out and lean on your host. Talk to the owners. Ask tough questions and request help. If they’re worth their weight at all, they’ll bend over backward to get you what you need to take advantage of the travel renaissance. That’s why every single one of our agents has the personal cell phone numbers of the owners of OutsideAgents.com, Chad and Steve.
For a Travel Professional looking to expand their business by partnering with a Host Travel Agency, where can they get more information about your newest offerings at OutsideAgents.com?
Everything is on our site at OutsideAgents.com, including an explainer interview with Joanie Ogg. The best thing you can do, though, is give us a call. Steve and I talk to agents all day, and we’d love to talk with you to explore how we can help build your business.
Before we conclude, I want to say thank you for your time, insight and partnership. You are a great influencer in the industry and it’s an honor to chat today! -Andy Ogg