First off, thank you so much for the time today Chad! It’s always great to connect with you! What a year it has been, but as we step forward from a challenging year, how have things been for you and the OutsideAgents.com team?
We slept like babies through the whole thing…waking up every two hours crying and pooping ourselves. Seriously, though, OutsideAgents.com thrives in adverse conditions. For example, while we were too scared to know it at the time, the Great Recession was a defining moment for our agents and us. It forced us to trim the fat, get lean, create more efficient and effective systems, and do more with less. We came out of that event even stronger than before. The same lessons will serve us well during this recovery as we not only survive, but thrive as well!
How have the Travel Professionals working with OutsideAgents.com as their Host Agency been? Have you been hearing of some forward movement?
Forward movement? How about leaps forward? March was the best month in the history of OutsideAgents until April came. April was the best ever until May, June, and July came. Even with a Delta variant related slow down, this recovery is in motion and it’s amazing.
Here are a few important facts and what they mean to building your travel business:
Again, I don’t want to jinx it, but the recovery has arrived. Ladies and gentlemen, the pandemic has left the building!
I think we have all learned a lot through this pandemic, for myself the word “grit” stands as a strong lesson learned. What three things would you say that you’ve learned from this experience?
With recovery of our beloved Travel industry in motion, how do you see our industry progressing forward? Do you have any tips to help other Travel Professionals get their business’ back up and running?
Just do it. Covid might have killed you; paralysis by analysis will. At the end of the day, the operative word in your question is “business.” You are a business owner, and your widget is travel. Granted, your business has been through hell, starved, and torn down to bare bones, but it’s still standing. It’s the perfect time to reboot yourself and your business. Let me explain.
As Covid emerged, my pancreas bailed. It just quit. Now, your pancreas is kind of important as it regulates your sugars and the absorption of nutrients. By the time the doctors figured out what was going on, I had gone from 186 lbs to just 131. I was in bad shape. Fast forward to today, and I’m up to 162 lbs. The cool thing is that my body fat is around 11% (I’m told that is pretty good for an athlete, which I’m not). People think I live in the gym and ask me how I did it. Well, when you’re torn down to bare bones, you can come back leaner and meaner than ever if you take a moment to reflect and make some good choices. That’s where you are now. Torn down, beat up, and ready to rise from the ashes better and stronger than ever.
The point is that you have a chance to reimagine yourself and your business. Do it. You may look and see that there is no need for changes. Like most of us, though, you may find opportunities to tweak what you have, create what you don’t, and get rid of the extra weight. Regardless, take a moment to reflect, make observations, consider changes, and do what you need to do.
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, 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, 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 takeaways 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 more true than when working with those that we can benefit the most; those with special needs. 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. 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 addressing “special needs” needs 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 families4 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.5 Here’s the kicker: they spend 38-61%6 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 49% per transaction is just icing on the cake.
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.
Your host should be providing a laundry list of well-vetted, industry-leading, best of class tools, including:
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