What propels your clients to travel? Is it fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO? Or is it the “you only live once (aka YOLO)” mentality?
Could it be bragging rights on social media? Ticking something off a bucket list? Or is it the desire to grasp an opportunity when it presents itself, knowing that it could have the potential to become an epic lifelong memory?
For the record, you’ll be happy to learn that none of the answers above are incorrect. We all have our own reasons for traveling and our own cups to fill. That being said, why is it that we often bypass opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime experiences and convince ourselves they will come around again?
If I had to guess, it’s because no one is whispering in our ear, pushing us to commit.
As 2020 begins to unfold and I reflect on the past year, I can hardly recall the new purchases I made. A sweater here, a picture frame and candle there. None of them truly stand out as being significant. Rather, my greatest memories of 2019 center around the places I went and the things I did with my family and friends.
I am fortunate to say that my travels were extensive this past year and I had a lot of people inquire enviously about where I went and the fun I had. I’m always eager to share my latest “travel find” with whoever is listening, but the conversation begins and ends there. Why is that?
Because I am not a travel advisor, and fulfilling their dreams is your job.
I know, travel advisors are busy. And that’s a good thing. But the ones who are busy and also truly profitable are the ones who are thinking outside the box. They’re not booking typical packages, instead they’re organizing luxurious safari adventures, around the world cruises, and two-week long heritage trips to Europe. For their golf clients, they’re offering them tickets to the Masters and for the tennis fans at the local country club, they’re hosting a themed night with Wimbledon at the forefront. They’re making dreams come true through experiential travel and tapping into avenues that you often overlook.
How your peers make it work
Once in a lifetime experiences denote something rare. They don’t happen each week, month, or even year. They are special and the opportunity for them to surface are few and far between. They can mean everything from cheering on a favorite sports team at the Super Bowl or World Series or marking a milestone anniversary or birthday with a trip that revolves around concert tickets to see a beloved musician. For many travel advisors I spoke to, it’s all these things I’ve mentioned and more. In fact, this year it’s even packing the family up to experience the wonder of attending the Olympics.
Wendy Walker has been an IC for five years at her home office in Keller, Texas, where she is affiliated with host agency, Palm Coast Travel. She is currently in the process of booking two separate families on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Tokyo, Japan for the Summer Olympics. Walker recognizes how impactful these experiences are going to be and she’s willing to give it all she’s got to impress her clients and keep them coming back for more.
When she first started looking for packages for each of them, the pricing was outrageous, prompting her to approach and price each part of the trip separately. Fortunately, her host agency has a Facebook chat group that she relies heavily on for advisor peer advice and recommendations. Knowing that no trip would take place without tickets to the events, that’s where she knew she needed to begin. After roaming the Internet and doing her due diligence, it was her group chat that finally led her to a reputable events company that was able to offer her not only great seats at a reasonable price, but commission on the sale, and peace of mind for her and her clients.
“I am seeing people with two income families and more discretionary income wanting to do bigger and more higher dollar trips nowadays and I think it has to do with the YOLO mentality,” said Walker. “They are realizing that it’s worth it. They’re not buying their kids gifts (that they will throw away six months later) for the holidays, instead they are buying them experiences. They are creating memories. It’s a ‘go big or go home mentality.’”
Sharon McCarthy, an IC with Adventure Travel in Huntsville, Alabama, says everyone has their own version of what a once-in-a-lifetime trip is, and it’s the advisors’ job to figure it out. “It takes sparking an interest and qualifying them. I ask clients ‘What’s the one thing you haven’t done that you want to do?’”
McCarthy also sends out a Thanksgiving newsletter with a roundup of what’s new for 2020. For example, her Top Ten Experiences this year included going to The Masters, Wimbledon, Oberammergau, and the Olympics. “Even though folks may not want one of those, it might inspire them to do something else. It creates top of mind awareness.” She noted pointedly, “How are they going to know if we don’t tell them?”
McCarthy also stressed that none of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences would come to fruition if she didn’t work with preferred suppliers who can provide access to events that might otherwise be unattainable. For example, travelers eyeing a trip to the Olympics would have to enter a lottery far in advance, only to face low odds of being one of the lucky few to be selected. What’s more, other outlets for Olympic tickets are oftentimes sold out, fraudulent, or highly overpriced. Likewise, for tickets to the Masters, the traveler must apply for tickets and more often than not, the application is denied. The other option to gain access to the Masters is to get grandfathered in by a family member. Without trusted suppliers, travelers are left with unreliable sources to try to source passes from, with no guarantee that the tickets are valid.
The possibilities are endless
When it comes to events and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the opportunities are endless and yet the market remains largely untapped namely because advisors are waiting for clients to make the first move.
McLean Robbins, founder of Lily Pond Luxury in Vienna, Virginia, knows the value of marketing to these travelers. “It’s important to have your client constantly thinking about the next trip they want to take.” Her strategy is to consider her clients’ travel plans beyond the present, so they come back again and again. “I like to work with my clients on a one-, three- and five-year plan to figure out how they can achieve the trips they want to go on.” Robbins notes there is always something to celebrate, whether it be an upcoming retirement, major anniversary, or the arrival of a new baby … and it keeps business on the books for years to come.
“In terms of marketing to clients such as these, it’s really important to understand what is possible and that comes from time, experience, and reading publications to gain a knowledge of what’s out there. It’s also important to develop really good relationships with your suppliers who can help you think outside of what might be on their sample guided tour list. And then really using that brain to get to your clients to propose trips that will feel in line with what they’re seeking. Often times clients don’t even know what they’re dreaming of is possible.”
McLean said the better she knows her clients, the more she can say ‘hey I know you really love this one musician and they’re touring here, let’s see if maybe we can get you backstage!’ And by using certain vendors, she is able to put together these bucket list type experiences that they’re not necessarily going to find on their own because they’re sold out or not listed on websites.
So, as travel advisors, how often do you remind your clients that there are once-in-a-lifetime experiences just waiting for them? If you don’t, then unfortunately their dreams, will remain just that - dreams.
“I believe it’s the travel agents’ job to ask questions and get to the bottom of why a client wants something. And you can tell by the tone in their voice when you get to the heart of it,” said Janel Ascher of Luxury Travel by Janel.
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