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By Kieron Keady
In late October Qantas Vacations concluded a 37 city road show covering Northeastern USA and Canada. Our colorful Australia Bus traveled 7,000 miles across 13 states and two Canadian provinces. Over 860 agents attended the one hour presentation on selling Australia, done in conjunction with Tourism Australia and National Geographic. Our "Rolling Roadshow" and yours truly also appeared on Your CN8, a morning talk show broadcast via the Comcast Cable Network to four million homes stretching from Maine south to Virginia.
Such a comprehensive schedule creates various opportunities along the way. At our breakfast seminar in Hartford we me a bright, creative home based agent named Jean Foisie of Travel Vision. Jean furiously scribbled notes during the presentation and asked questions. At the conclusion she expressed disappointment that we didn't cover any content about New Zealand.
I explained that this particular seminar series was part of a larger National Geographic campaign for Australia. Qantas Vacations' partners in the exercise were Tourism Australia and nine hotels, state tourism boards and local tour operators, all of which were Australian, hence the one country seminar content. I then inquired "But Jean, what do you need to know about New Zealand?" (You see at Qantas Vacations we know the Land of the Long White Cloud just as well as The Lucky Country, discriminating only minimally against our Kiwi neighbors).
Jean replied that she had a very upsacle client asking her to plan a luxury FIT to New Zealand to celebrate an anniversary. The client was a pillar in the community and a source of many other referrals. She needed an expert to plan and execute this trip just right. Jean intimated her name might be "mud" in Hartford if things went awry for this client.
"Look no further." I replied. We sat down and listened while Jean explained the client's wish list, a nearly month long itinerary including fly fishing, a ten day bicycle tour, rental cars, luxury lodges and visits to wineries on New Zealand's North and South Islands. Planning this particular trip was complex, as there were many different components, but all in a day's work for a specialty FIT tour operator.
The discussion became animated. I explained to Jean that we were on a tight schedule, with a show to Manhattan that evening with press meetings before, and a storm was coming. We had to get on the road to New York. She then had the gumption to ask me, "If my client is home would you mind stopping at her house on the way out of town? You can follow me there." I thought to myself, this lady has certain male attributes, but if it's that important to her, what the heck! That's what we're here for.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF
Now I must admit there was some mild dissention among our little traveling band of four. One of the Australian partners didn't see the value of taking this particular detour. However rank has its privileges. Complaints were duly ignored. We were on a mission from God to get travel agent Jean Foisie a sale and safeguard her reputation. This was now a matter of honor.
The Australia RV was loaded, locked and ready to hunt bear. We left the Hilton, rolled out of downtown Hartford and headed for the posh suburb of Farmington. The Australia Bus to the rescue! Five tons of Aboriginal-themed, billboard-wrapped recreational vehicle pulled up to the residence of Jean's clients. Arriving in such a low profile vehicle does raise eyebrows among one's neighbors, even in Farmington, CT. We were greeted warmly, offered coffee and seated at the kitchen table, where we listened once again to Jean's clients requests.
Cy Richard, my Director of Sales for the eastern USA expertly drew up an itinerary as we connect the components and dates. Their New Zealand wish list included the icon hotel Huka Lodge. Additionally, we recommended the grand Longwood Estate in the Martinborough wine region, staying in historic Victorian era country homes in Nelson and Blenheim, and an all important stay at Tongariro Lodge; a world class fly fishing retreat on the shores of Lake Taupo.
An hour later we were on the road, driving through a nasty squall en route ot the Big Apple, but arriving in time to greet 90 agents at the Australian Consulate that evening.
Later that week, Jean's clients accepted the itinerary Jean presented. They travel in February, Jean Foisie had closed the sale with a little help from her friends. The moral of the story is persistence pays off. You don't get what you don't ask for. Jean's determination to get the sale, and take advantage of having experts at her disposal paid off. As a supplier we wish more agents were as persistent as Jean Foisie.