With a career in marketing and public relations under her belt, it was only five years ago that Alyssa Schaier took her talents to the world of luxury travel.
The director of marketing and group sales at Courtyard Travel, a brand of Tzell Travel Group, has made a successful turn by applying what she’s learned throughout her career.
She began as most do, as an intern, in the music industry, promoting things like Billy Idol’s tour and Prince’s movie, “Purple Rain.” From there, she landed at MTV and worked on the launch of VH1; followed by stints at RCA, the New York Times’ magazine group, and Pepsi, building up a career in consumer products and services.
It was when she went to Disney-owned Fairchild Publications, a publisher of fashion trade magazines including Women’s Wear Daily and the now-defunct Jane, that helped her most in her current position.
“What was unique about that division, and that’s what helped me the most, was that I got to be really creative – and it was fun that I started with a blank slate,” she told Travel Market Report. “I was always looking for different ways and different channels,” and that included getting Jane on “All My Children” and a segment on “Good Morning America.”
Similarly, she also started with a blank slate when she entered the travel industry. But drawing on what she’s learned, she built a successful venture serving high-end clients.
She asked: “Who am I trying to reach? What do they want? And what channels do I need to reach them? You need a lot of touchpoints to get the message across consistently and to be reinforced.”
Schaier shared three tips that all travel advisors can take advantage of to help build their businesses.
1. Make it personal, on both the client side and the supplier side.
“I do a thorough Q&A with clients to find out what their likes and dislikes are. It’s not the basic questions, like budget, but getting into their psyche. If they’re going to invest in me, I’m going to invest my time in them.”
Another personal aspect comes through when clients are on the trip. Schaier said: “God forbid, something goes wrong, you got me. People want people. In this digital age, people are missing that personal touch. And to be able to provide that, and have that person they can go to, there’s a huge benefit.”
From there, Schaier said personal touches go a long way to let clients know you’re thinking about them, whether it’s providing the currency to the destination their going to or making a little care package for the airport.
How does this translate on the supplier side? Schaier said it’s about the relationships you develop. “Sometimes it’s a matter of looking for interesting ways to partner up with suppliers to create something unique.”
For example, she partnered with a supplier to host a swimwear fashion show at a retail store, and tied that in with various Caribbean destinations; and she teamed up with a cruise line to host a cruise-themed fashion show at a prestigious high-end retail store, which they marketed even to their cardholders and on their website.
Schaier will also host a booth with a supplier at her gym, and tie it into what is going on in any given moment, like golf or boating for Father’s Day.
2. Get creative.
By tying in personal interests, Schaier said it facilitates out-of-the-box thinking to form groups. For example, she’s working with a life coach to plan a trip to Greece with a group to find their inner goddesses; and she is planning a group trip to Eastern Europe with the Holocaust Remembrance Community.
Tailor this approach to your own likes and hobbies, whether it’s a fishing club or spinning class.
“Be creative and target your audience. Where are they? What do they like to do? The possibilities are limitless. It’s only limited by your imagination. If you’re sitting behind a desk waiting for a call, you’re wasting your time,” Schaier said.
She also created $100 gift cards to give away at fundraising events and to put on bridal registries, building her client database; as well as taking out local ads. “With these promotions, they might not need something now, but in three months when they want to plan a trip, they’ll think of me.
“You want to have a lot of different touchpoints to reach the consumer and get your message across. If it keeps coming and coming, they will remember who you are,” Schaier said.
3. Build relationships.
Having strong relationships with both clients and suppliers will allow you to maintain that client base you’ve worked so hard to build and grow through word-of-mouth referrals.
“I’m in the office once a week. The rest of the time, I’m either meeting with clients or suppliers, which is crucial,” Schaier said. She added that trade shows also serve as an important venue to hear what suppliers have to say.
Fams – in addition to being a great subtle, soft sell for clients when posted on Facebook or Instagram – allow Schaier to see the destination and develop a deeper relationship with the supplier.
“I think your relationships with those suppliers are key. They’re the people that are taking care of your client.” For luxury clients, who have come to expect extra amenities, Schaier reaches out to her rep and says, “Hey, I have a client coming. What can we do?” It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something to make them feel special.
“You have to maintain and nurture your clients,” Schaier explained. You’re their point person. Especially when you’re doing custom-curated itineraries, it has to be unique. They’re not coming to you for cookie-cutter. They know they are getting a different level of service, so they come to respect and appreciate that they know the relationship we have.”
Then, Schaier says, your client becomes a spokesperson for you, and when they post something on social media, that’s a reflection of your influence.