Month: June 2022

The Power of Choosing a Niche

Travel insights from Elisa Parhad, contributor to The Compass

It might seem counterintuitive but focusing on a specific corner of the market — whether that be multi-generational travel, cruising or European vacations —is key. Doing so can turn your travel agency into a powerhouse, enabling your business to attract more clients, while showcasing you as an expert in a specific area. You’ll also spend less time researching trips as you continue to build your knowledge about your specific target audience and their needs.

This philosophy is one that Sharon Little, Owner of Bespoke Travel Group, always believed. She knew that, at some point, she would become known for a niche of her own. After all, she had always worked in one, initially in sports travel in the United Kingdom, and then in romance travel thereafter. But an even more specific corner of the market became clear in 2011 on a trip to Jamaica.

“I noticed at every property I visited, there were several weddings each day,” says Little. It turns out that Jamaica is one of the easiest places for Americans to get married legally, and the island offers several other perks for couples, including tropical vibes and close proximity to the East Coast and Midwest. Little also loved the island, so the decision she made was easy: her agency, Bespoke Travel Group (formerly known as Wedding and Honeymoon Travel Group), would focus on couples headed to Jamaica for weddings or honeymoons. “It was my niche within a niche,” Little jokes.

For three to four years, Little only booked these two types of trips, despite getting inquiries for other destinations. Working with top suppliers and vendors, she quickly achieved her goal and became the leading agency for weddings on the island. Although Bespoke Travel now offers trips to a variety of other islands and Mexico, Little is first and foremost an authority on Jamaican romance travel.

“If you’re good at what you do, and you have that knowledge, you become the authority for that niche and the go-to person,” said Little. “Not only were we getting referral business from our customers, but the partners that we worked with often recommended us to their clients, too.”

By zeroing in on a specific travel segment, Little’s reputation precedes her. Her job also requires far less research than if she were booking for a broader range of destinations, saving her valuable time on a day-to-day basis.

“We know what time the sun sets and what time the sun’s actually going down. We know how windy that location is. We know how long it’s going to take the bride to get from her room to the altar and we know what the walkway looks like. Essentially, we know every minute detail. To me, that’s a huge benefit I can offer clients,” Little says. “It also makes the job exponentially easier. Once you have your niche down, you basically know everything, or the majority of the knowledge that you need for every single inquiry.”

Another advantage of a specialization is that competition is reduced and the return on budgeting dollars — because they are focused — is higher. “I’d much rather be laser-focused on a smaller audience but convert them to clients at a much higher rate,” says Little.

How to find your own niche

This starts with discovering your passion. Little suggests asking yourself what you enjoy selling. Whether it is retreat trips for artists, deep-sea fishing excursions or heritage travel to Eastern Europe, it is crucial that you truly enjoy that type of travel and crafting those itineraries.

“If you’re a generalist right now, look at all the different types of travel you are booking,” Little suggests. “Maybe you love planning European itineraries or multi-generational families getting together and having a great experience. Regardless, it must be something you really love. If you aren’t excited about it, it’s not your niche.”

Next, research the market to understand if you can make a living on that slice of the pie. Is it big enough? Is it already saturated? In finding or developing your niche market, ensure it has accessible customers, room for growth, and no dominant competition.

Identifying and researching areas you are passionate about can be the fun part. Where most advisors get stuck is committing to their chosen niche. For a period, this likely means turning down work and getting through a hard transition period with a lower income stream. In Little’s case, she planned for a slow period of three to six months — the approximate amount of time it took her to change her message and let it filter down to her target customers. The success that followed is a testament to the idea that the foundation for a great business takes time and patience.

Little’s advice to weather the transition is to be prepared for short-term losses, partner with the best vendors and suppliers, and keep your eye on the long game. Now with 10 years of business behind her, she says the payoff is worth the initial hardships she had to overcome. Luckily for her, in just 12 to 18 months she was pulling in over a million dollars in revenue.

Get your message out there

Like so many elements of business today, social media is a key to keeping clients informed of any pivot your agency makes. Use these channels to communicate what your agency is learning and where it is going. “You’re just trying to get the word out there,” says Little. “’Hey, I’m doing this class today,’ or, ‘Hey, I’m in this destination today, and I’m learning about this.’ It’s about involving them in your learning process. In keeping them updated and letting them know what it is that you’re doing, you’re developing your education and keeping clients informed.”

When Little was starting out, social media wasn’t what it is today and she didn’t have a significant following. She turned to referrals, which is another classic tool to help grow a niche market. In the world of romance travel, it is likely that every bride getting married knows at least three other brides getting married within a couple of years. Little seized on that opportunity. “We would go to our brides with a referral program and ask them if they knew anyone getting married or getting engaged,” she explains. “We would ask them if they knew anyone or heard of anyone who’s looking for this type of service, to please keep us in mind. And, that has worked really, really well for us.”

The work of having an agency focused on a niche isn’t done after you have a regular roster of clients booking trips. Tending to your niche is just as important as committing to it. “It’s a partnership and a relationship that needs continuous nurturing,” says Little. “There’s high turnover in the hotels and the wedding teams, and properties constantly have new products, new packages and new customizations you need to know about.”

Focusing on a niche requires finding your passion, committing to your corner of the market and constantly nurturing its growth. “I don’t want to be a Jack of all trades, master of none,” Little says. “I want to be a big fish in a small pond. Because for me, sticking to a niche has absolutely worked.”

In searching for your own portion of paradise, remember that new niches are created all the time — think film tourism, trips for those who only travel with pets or adventure travel for women over 50. For Little, it was a perfect pairing of romance and an accommodating island in the West Indies. For you, the opportunities are endless.

Originally appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The Compass Magazine.

You May Also Like

Event Recap: VAX VacationAccess at the Romance Travel Forum

Business travel is back! As you may have read previously, I recently traveled to Mexico for the Romance Travel Forum. This was my first in-person event since March of 2020 and I must say it was so many feelings all jumbled up into one anxious mind and body! But maybe that is all for another buzz

Diversity in Travel

Travel is beyond ramped back up! My business travel schedule has certainly hit the ground running at breakneck speed as well. My last few events have given me the opportunity to really spend some time talking to advisors about the main focuses in their business, the type of travel they feel confident

On Your Radar: 5 New Resorts

These five resorts have just come onto the scene. Put them on your list for your clients who are always looking for something new. 1. Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Opened: February 2021 You Can’t-Miss: Seven on-site restaurants featuring traditional and avant-garde local an

Destination Next: Puerto Rico

The smallest member of the Greater Antilles, the island of Puerto Rico is located in the Atlantic Ocean just east of the Dominican

How to Sell Yourself as a Travel Advisor

Travel insights from Steve Hirshan, senior vice president of sales at Avoya Travel and contributor to Travel Professional News

Here’s the one question customers usually ask themselves that can make or break your sale: “Am I willing to invest my time and trust with this person?”

How do you ensure you get the ‘yes’? By ensuring you’re selling yourself to your clients. As a travel advisor, your experience and knowledge help you design unforgettable travel experiences for your clients – this value that you bring is what you want to be selling. By ‘selling the product’ first and not yourself, you run the risk of your clients saying to themselves, “I can buy this online.”

Compare this to the large-scale travel websites today that focus on selling the product first. Following this strategy is sure to guarantee that your authenticity, uniqueness and human side get lost in the mass market of potential sources for booking travel.

Here are four tips on how to best showcase your value as a travel professional to your clients (and how to win over new ones).

Showcase Your Expertise

Don’t just focus on selling the deal, sell your knowledge and expertise. Being a jack-of-all-trades (but a master of none) isn’t going to help you stand out in the marketplace, so be sure to focus on a niche to specialize in and communicate that expertise to your clients. To get started, choose a few destinations, products or types of travel experiences and make those your specialty. Incorporating a niche may seem like you’re narrowing your prospects, however, it can create more business than you think by winning over prospective clients’ trust.

Focus On Personalization And The Human Touch

In today’s digital world, personalization is a must, and that doesn’t exclude the travel industry. Travelers are seeking out that personal touch more than ever, which is your opportunity to step up and fill those shoes.

Large-scale online travel agencies often make travelers feel unimportant and unknown, and clients can be made to wait on hold when complications arise. Travelers want to be assured they can talk to a real person, not a machine or call center agent – someone who gives that personal support even while clients are traveling.

You’ll also want to take the time to get to know your clients’ interests. Travelers are seeking out personalized trips partial to their interests and hobbies. You may have a customer looking at going paddle boarding, exploring coffee houses, different cuisines or cliff diving on the other side of the globe. Whatever their interest is, creating a personalized itinerary that reflects the traveler is key to success.

Sell Your Services

When it comes to the value you can bring to a booking, people usually think of the assistance you can provide when things go wrong, the time you can save clients by sifting through a myriad of travel options and the details you can tend to on their behalf that make trips go more smoothly (especially during these last two years).

Travelers are not coming to you for something they can easily book online themselves. They want to see the value of using you. Add different complexities to remind your customer that only you can plan a vacation like this – unique recommendations, unforgettable excursions, first-hand experience – the possibilities are endless.

Define Your Elevator Pitch

If you had only 30 seconds to sell yourself (and the value you provide), the same amount of time it would take you to ascend five floors in an elevator, would you be able to convince someone to book their travel through you? A good elevator pitch will help you establish yourself as someone with the ability to create great vacations for your clients; not just a representative for various travel companies, but the go-to source for all things travel.

Take the time to define what makes your agency different than the large-scale OTAs or other travel advisors out there. Is it an interesting backstory or a focus on a specific travel expertise? Make sure you know who you are and what you’re able to share with your clients. If you’re not clearly defining your value, your clients won’t be able to see it either.

You May Also Like

Seven Critical Items for New Travel Agents

Recently, I was quoted in a great article in Travel Market Report by Cheryl Rosen on “How to Become a Travel Agent: A Guide for the Perplexed.” My contribution mainly related to the importance of having a business plan, certain disclosures that every travel advisor (using ASTA’s new terminology) sho

Starting a Career as a Travel Agent in 2021? 6 Steps to Get Started

There has never been a better time to enter the travel industry than right now. As travel comes back to life after the complete shut down during the COVID pandemic, there is a shortage of travel agents to help consumers who have strong pent-up desires to start traveling again. As destinations open u

“Wooing” Your Business Partners

It’s true. I have the gift for gab. But come on, that tends to be a trait of many women. And I feel that I can take liberty calling out this stereotype, because I am a woman. People often think that because I am gregarious that I find it easy to build strong relationships with business partners. In

The Big 3 – Tips for Business Wellness

Without question, wellness is a key focus for many small business owners today. In a recent study by The Global Wellness Institute, they uncovered significant, diverse and positive

Germany Drops All COVID-Related Entry Requirements

By Matt TurnerJun 7, 2022 08:52am

Berlin, Germany (Photo by bluejayphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Just in time for summer travel season, Germany has dropped its “3G” rule—which stated that tourists had to either show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 or provide a negative test when entering Germany—for travelers coming from the European Union, Schengen Area or other countries where the epidemiological situation is deemed acceptable by the E.U.

This means that, from the United States, visitors can now enter Germany without carrying any kind of proof of their COVID status. The modification is set to stay in place until at least August 31 and comes at a time during which many tourists make their summer travel plans, according to the German National Tourist Board.

Good to know: Germany had also dropped its mask mandates earlier this year; the only federal rule still remaining in place requires people to wear masks on public transportation.

Entry from any other country beyond those that fit the above criteria for any purpose (including visits and tourism) is only possible for fully vaccinated people. For people not yet vaccinated entry from other countries is only possible in exceptional cases and is conditional on there being an urgent need. Travelers that may have stayed in an area of concern within 10 days prior to their entry to Germany must observe special regulations, which includes registering before entry, providing a negative PCR-test result and quarantining for 14 days.

A total travel ban is in place for countries with widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants of concern.

For the latest information, visit www.auswaertiges-amt.de.

This article originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.

Related Articles

Italy Removes All COVID-Related Travel Restrictions

Opernhaus Zürich Partners With Zürich Tourism For Guided Tours

Nobu Hospitality Sets Sights on Madrid for Next Hotel

Seven Top Restaurants for Indian Food in London

6 of the best location-scouting apps and websites for all photographers

By

Jamie Carter

Need some inspiration? Or have you got a great photo location you want to share with other photographers? These apps and websites will do just the job

Discover the best apps below to help you find the perfect locations for your photography. Photo by by Jaromir Chalabala

Finding amazing places to explore with your camera can be challenging particularly if you’re after something unusual. Thankfully there are plenty of apps that will help, from those offering simple inspiration and directions to others that will help you plan when to be there and at what time to get a specific kind of shot.

Here are some of the best location-scouting apps to help you find a great place to take your camera…

1 Atlas Obscura


Although it’s not specifically aimed at photographers, Atlas Obscura is hugely useful if you’re after something unusual.

“If you’re looking for something unusual, unexpected and, for the most part, largely ignored by my Instagrammers, Atlas Obscura is a must-have to check…”

Based on a website that’s been around for over a decade, its database of almost 25,000 unique places in the world depends on user-generated content and mostly comprises unusual and obscure travel destinations. We’re talking deserted buildings, weird architecture and things that appear to be out of place.

Some of them aren’t particularly photogenic – they’re only here because they have an interesting backstory – but a great deal of them are must-see, must-photograph places. If you’re looking for something unusual, unexpected and, for the most part, largely ignored by my Instagrammers, Atlas Obscura is a must-have to check before you go … anywhere. 

Author tip:

Perhaps because it’s been around for a long time, the database behind the Atlas Obscura website helps the app seem both professional and polished. For example, for each location you not only get directions For Google Maps, but you also get a link to the official website, where appropriate. you can also add any location to a list, make edits to existing entries and even add your own photos. However, you can use the Atlas Obscura app without signing-up or logging in. 

2 PhotoPills


If you want to shoot a sunset, sunrise, or a rising or setting full moon then you simply must download the PhotoPIlls app. When you’re in position you can use its augmented reality mode to display on your smartphone exactly where on horizon the Sun and the Moon will be at a specific time. It means you can can get in an exact position at an exact time to photograph, say, the Moon rising between two buildings.

It works really well when you’re in position, but its ‘planner’ page – a map with the exact direction of the Sun and Moon, as well as the times of golden hours, blue hour and even the length of shadows – is excellent for helping you scout out a good location in advance.

Author tip:

As well as being great for getting your angles right for the Sun and the Moon, PhotoPills is also an excellent source of information about meteor showers. Although displays of so-called ‘shooting stars’ tend to be hyped up by the media, the brightness of the Moon can render some of them completely invisible. PhotoPills includes dates for all active meteor showers, but crucially also includes the phase and illumination percentage of the Moon. 

3 MapAPic

MapAPic doesn’t offer you any inspiration or information on new photo locations. Instead it enables you to get as much out of places you’re currently in, you’ve recently been to or that you intend to visit soon. For example, if you’re in location or you’ve recently been somewhere and you’ve taken a photo that includes GPS data – likely from your smartphone or connected camera – then this app will create a new location, and then give you the option to add a photo.

However, the magic comes from its ‘sun insights’ page, which for very specific places will give you the exact times for astronomical night, dawn, the morning and evening golden hours, and the evening blue hour. You can also make notes about the location, back-up your favourite locations to Dropbox and share and print PDFs. 

Author tip:

MapAPic is a unique resource for photographers who intend to return to specific destinations. It gives you the exact times on any given date that you need to be in position to get a specific shot. However, given that this app is taking-in incredibly detailed information from all kinds of photographers it’s a shame you can’t browse others’ stored locations. 

4 TripBucket Mobile

Recently re-named (it used to be called Roadside Attractions Guide), this app has the tag-line “dream it, plan it, do it, share it”, which neatly summarises what it’s all about. The main way to interrogate its contents is by allowing it to see your location, which it uses to show you large thumbnail photos of attractions and things to do nearby.

However, you can also zoom-in on a map, browse via category or see upcoming events. Scan down the list and it takes you farther from your location. Click on the thumbnail and you’ll see a brief description, a useful gallery of photos, driving directions using the usual smartphone navigation apps, and even the current weather. You can also add your own photos and share each location with others. Annoyingly you have to create an account to get access, but once you’re in it’s really easy to use. 

Author tip:

A polished yet relatively simple app, TripBucket Mobile is essentially for travellers looking for inspiration and ideas when planning trips, so it should appeal mostly to travel photographers. It also has a fabulous section of about 100 virtual tours where you can choose a destination or theme – including Tokyo, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the U.S. National Parks – and then see 360º photos of those top attractions. It’s useful for planning potential shots. 

5 rGPS (Really Good Photo Spots)

What the aptly-named Really Good Photo Spots lacks in content it makes up for with in-depth detail. It’s a fairly simple database of interesting places, which you can interrogate by asking the app to look for spots around you using your phone’s location, or buy a manual search. You can also add your own spots and create trips, though the latter is a premium feature only.

What makes rGPS different to some of the more travel-centric apps is that not only is it focused purely on photography, but for each location it also gives you the exact GPS coordinates. However, the app does have a fairly rudimentary feel about it, and each page features ads, albeit rather small.

Author tip:

You don’t get a friendly welcome on rGPS. First it asks for your email and a password to sign-up – with no Facebok or Apple/Google auto-signup possible – then immediately asks  for £8.99 for a one-year, auto-renewing subscription. That gets you no ads and the ability to both create and save trips, as well as save locations for offline access. That could be useful if you’re away from mobile phone networks and WiFi.

Photomapper


Here’s an app that has a lot of potential, but so far lacks content. A crowdsourcing app that relies on photographers submitting their own photos and details of where they were taken, Photomapper presents a map of the world that you can zoom in on. As you do you see photos for various locations with a small blue number indicating how many shooting locations are included for that city, region or country. You then just click on the thumbnails to reveal small versions of all the photos submitted, with each one including information on the best time to go and details about entrance fees, if relevant.

You’ll need an account with Photomapper to start adding your own photos and tips, but you don’t need to sign-up or login to passively use Photomapper.

Author tip:

For each photo it’s possible to get the exact location of where the photo was taken. It opens using either Google Maps or, on an iPhone, Apple Maps, so you can navigate straight to it. You can also use either Mapbox or OpenStreetMap for the world map.

More apps:

Discover more brilliant resources for your photography with our recommended photography apps.

Jamie Carter

Jamie Carter is a journalist and author focusing on stargazing and astronomy, astrophotography, and travel for Forbes Science, BBC Sky At Night magazine, Sky & Telescope, Travel+Leisure, and The Telegraph.

Scroll to Top