Anie Chevrier is a successful travel designer and business owner, and recently revamped her business with the launch of The Travel Boutique. An independent advisor with TravelOnly, Chevrier shared her experience and insight with CT, as follows:
You recently redesigned your image and business – what prompted this change, what sort of changes did you make and how have you seen it impact your business?
Short answer is many things prompted this change!
I was looking to differentiate myself from my competition (yes, including other TravelOnly associates) and looking to create a unique brand for myself and my team.
What sort of thought and process went into the redesign? What did you need to consider to ensure it would be successful?
The discussion started nearly two years ago when considering what my niche is/was going to be. The motivation to just push through and do it largely came from networking at the Romance Travel Forum in Jamaica and discussing "the power of your brand." The success of the decision will prove itself over time as my core business/regular clientele are loyal and have stayed with me through the rebranding. It is about attracting more luxury-minded travellers. I am lucky enough to have already seen a change and my bookings within the luxury sector have already started to grow.
What advice would you give to travel advisors who have been looking to refresh their image but don’t know how?
Give yourself enough time! Two years of planning, brainstorming, discussing and logo design may seem like a long time but it goes so quickly. Bounce your ideas off trusted friends and family. Receive feedback on your logo design, colour choices, launch dates, etc. In short plan, plan, plan. Your logo is extremely important as it sums up at one glance, what you are all about.
Tell us about The Travel Boutique — do you specialize in any particular niche or travel style? Who are your clients?
The Travel Boutique is a full service, home-based group of travel designers with access to all the options ‘brick & mortar’ agencies provide. What The Travel Boutique offers is the professional and personalized service to meet all our clients’ requirements. At The Travel Boutique, clients can expect a concierge-level of service; we don’t offer a cookie-cutter service but a very individualized service. We sell everything, including leisure groups, incentive groups, destination weddings, Disney, European travel and exotic destinations, river and ocean cruising, family travel - you name it. We do a lot of customization.
How do you market yourself and The Travel Boutique?
Number one is repeat guests and referrals. I have built my client base solely on referrals. Marketing within my community is a key focus as the base of my business (friends & family/repeat and referrals) are from out of town. Working with my community and local sports organizations are extremely important. We feel it is important that we give back to the community in various sports organizations and local fundraising.
What strategies (marketing, communication, customer service, etc) do you employ as a way to set yourself apart from other travel advisors, and keep clients coming back to you time and time again?
Know your product! To be a truly qualified travel advisor, it is critical to travel extensively yourself. Clients value the fact that I am a very seasoned traveller and I invest heavily in this area of my business so that I can serve my clients with the finest details based on my own experiences. It is just as important that you know your product as you do your client. I make it a point to learn and keep myself updated on my products and destinations with supplier FAMs and self-organized FAMs. When travelling for pleasure, there is always a business component to research and tour other properties, ships, tours, etc. Having a great relationship with my suppliers is key. The BDMs are also part of the success; without their support and encouragement, I would not be where I am today.
What are your tips for finding new clientele?
Social media, consumer wedding shows, general networking. Never leave home without business cards!
What are your tips for retaining clients?
Number one focus is customer service. My clients have come to expect an e-mail, return phone call, text or social media post back within hours; I always get back to my clients within 24 hours. You must accept the home-based advantage you have over other agencies is that you are never closed. I have tried to set hours and in the busy season, all the hours do is push the clients to actually book before “I leave the office for the day."
Number two: Your clients are coming back to you and referring you as the expert with the knowledge….so get familiar with the brands, go on FAMS. The more you travel, the more you will sell. Most of my clients send me their budget and will say to me, ”Where am I going this year?” They look to me to make that decision as I am the expert.
Lastly, keep extensive notes in each client's file, listen to your client’s wants and needs.
What are your tips for closing a sale?
I never give more than five options; I really try to keep it to three. But knowing the product and qualifying the proper destination and resort is key.
Do you charge services fees? If so, why and how much?
I will charge service fees on certain things and in certain situations. It all depends on the file. If they are coming to me to simply care for and organize their Walt Disney World vacations but have already booked it on points, then yes, I will charge them a service fee. The fee will depend on the amount of hours and the number of passengers. For corporate files, we charge fees.
Why do you enjoy being a travel advisor?
I have a passion for travel. I love planning my client’s dream vacation, destination wedding or honeymoon as if it were my own! It makes it so much more personal!
What is the most unique thing you’ve ever done to enhance a client’s trip?
I planned a surprise vow renewal for a husband to surprise his wife. This was a challenge as I had to get information from the bride to help with the planning, for example, her dress. I enjoyed selecting everything from the flowers to the décor and the end result…She was blown away!
What is the wackiest request you’ve ever received from a client and how did you handle it?
Well there is always a funny request or two, however, the one that made me chuckle was when a client asked me if they were allowed to take their own kale to Cuba. They couldn't go unless they had kale.
What do you consider to be the biggest change in the travel industry since you began your career as a travel advisor, and how have you adapted to said change?
I would say there are more types of specialty travel evolving, which actually makes the industry more interesting. Experiencing these unique travel experiences personally and selling them to clients is very fulfilling as they are generally bucket list items. An example of this would be my recent experience aboard the Rocky Mountaineer
Anything else to add that could help support the sales growth of fellow travel advisors?
Focus on specific brands, be an expert in the knowledge! Explore new destinations, tour new properties and experience travel yourself!
Care to share your own success story? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.