Last week I mentioned that much of our business is out of our control. Commissions are cut and we are nearly powerless to change that. Shortly after my story was publishing, word began to cross the Atlantic of a terror bombing in Brussels, Belgium. Here we go again.
For those that have never been through an international incident as a travel agency owner, here are some tips. For those that have, consider this a refresher!
Keep calm, but keep informed
Understand that any act of terror in an unexpected locale will impact your business in some way. Right now, authorities are sorting through it all and trying to determine if there is a larger threat in Belgium or elsewhere in the world. As a result, people are on edge. As a trusted travel advisor, you need to keep calm for your clients and not panic; but more importantly you need to keep informed on their behalf so you can pass along solid intelligence as they plan their travel.
Calm your clients down
Never tell your clients that their fears are unfounded. That is a surefire way to lose a client. Understand their fears; assuage their fears and present them the information needed to make a reasonable decision. In situations like this, I have found it best to not overtly steer a client; the decisions must be theirs alone. Present them valid and valued advice, discuss their concerns and offer your honest opinion; but allow them to be the one to step on the gas, or put on the brakes.
It is likely that these fears may linger. Of course it is expected that many trips to Brussels in the next few weeks will be impacted. It could last a year or longer depending on the situation. And quite honestly, in this instance, it may not just impact Brussels, but may very well spread throughout Europe.
To help advise your clients, look for similar destinations that might fit the bill for a replacement trip. Bermuda for London. Mexico City for Madrid. St. Barts for Paris. You get the idea. An alternate destination will never replace an original; but you likely can pick up some of the key features if you dig deep enough. Are your clients looking to go to Europe to see opera? While not Europe, Sydney is an outstanding alternative.
And, this goes without saying, any changes will come with a cost. Some suppliers will be reasonable and accommodate changes. Some may do it for a while and then refuse, and others may refuse entirely. In any case, in a volatile world, acts of terror can add a considerable cost to any trip. Insurance is not optional is a mantra with my clients traveling internationally or spending more than $2500 on a trip. When I quote a trip (we primarily do groups) the insurance is always built into the price. Of course we disclose it (not hidden); but this way it is not a “value add” or an “upsell.” Removing the insurance makes the client think about the ramifications. By including insurance initially, you have already set a pricing baseline. Do not get caught not selling insurance!
As agency owners, we need to remember that this is simply another bump in the road, and in time it too will pass. But in the meantime, we need to be as proactive as possible and keep our eyes open on developments so that our businesses are impacted as little as possible.