Your marketing message has paid off, and you’ve had your initial consultation with your client. They’ve paid your fee, if you have one, and are now eagerly waiting your trip proposal that will prove to them that you know your stuff and they made the right decision to work with you. This is often a choke point for many travel agents – preparing a trip proposal can seem like a daunting task, especially when you realize it can affect how your client perceives the work you’ve done for them. How do you prepare a trip proposal that is clean, nicely organized, and provides all the relevant information so the client can make an intelligent buying decision?
Arrange Chronologically: Put all the trip elements together in step by step fashion. Some proposals group like elements together: all the hotels, all the car rentals, and so on. Doing so makes it harder for the client to understand what they will be doing, and makes it harder on you to ensure you’ve covered all the bases.
Be Detailed: Name the hotels, list the addresses, and include nearby points of interest. Provide maps that show where everything is located in relation to each other, including transportation stops and recommended eateries. For cruise ships, highlight the stateroom locations on a deck plan. For recommended eateries, include a little bit about them – business hours, type of food served, and give an idea of the budget range of their meals. For transfers, include the type of transfer you’ll arrange – private driver and car, limo, charter bus, and so on.
Include Pictures: Pictures help sell a destination – include pictures of the hotels, the sightseeing attractions, or different areas of their destination. I often include one shot of the hotel lobby, a shot of the room type I have selected, and a shot of the views from the property. For attractions, often one representative photo is sufficient.
Personalize It: Make the proposal personalized to the clients you’re sending it to. Include their names on the front page, and allude to their specific tastes within it. For instance, if they are vegetarians, recommending they visit Morton’s Steakhouse while in New York City is not a good plan. Also, make suggestions for things to do on the “downtime” that isn’t planned out on the itinerary – on a recent Italian trip, my proposal recommended getting a taste of limoncello while in Sorrento.
Use Simple Fonts: People get turned off when things are hard to read. Keep the fonts you use for your proposal simple – Arial, Tahoma, and Times New Roman are common choices. Whatever program you use for your proposals (a word processing program like Microsoft Word, your CRM, or another program) should allow you to adjust the fonts for text, headers, and other elements.
Make It a PDF: These days, it is easy to create a PDF document even if you don’t have the Adobe Acrobat software. You should always send your proposals to your clients in PDF format – this retains the formatting you have chosen to use, and protects the integrity of the information.
Don’t Include a Price: This last suggestion will raise the most eyebrows, but hear me out! I once attended a sales training class where the “guru” suggested not including pricing on a proposal. We always talk about taking the focus off price during the qualification stage of the process, and putting the pricing onto the proposal puts the focus back on the price. I decided to try leaving off the price, to get the client excited about the itinerary and feeling like this is the itinerary she HAS TO HAVE, and we can discuss pricing after she’s read through it and is happy with it. If she doesn’t like the price, we can begin adjusting elements of the proposal. Since I put this idea into practice, I have had more acceptances of my proposals than before, and I haven’t had to change much on the original proposals to get the price down to an acceptable level for the client.
Your trip proposal is your chance to show the clients that you are the expert and that you are keeping their travel wants and needs in mind as you design their trip for them. Sending a proposal from the supplier that is barebones and looks like it was printed off their website is a good way to make you seem like an order taker rather than a designer of travel dreams. How do you want your client to perceive you?
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.