There has never been a better time to travel internationally or to destinations like Hawaii. The crowds are thin, the prices are lower than they have been in years. Five Star hotels are affordable, and many tour packages have air-inclusive rates similar to what hotel alone would have cost a year ago. If you have clients that have been putting off their dream trip, now is the time.
But we North Americans can be timid travelers and clients can always find an excuse to not travel. This year has provided the reluctant traveler with a plethora of reasons to stay close to home. Even now, the specter of an autumn resurgence of swine flu continues to loom along with a sluggish economy and a recovery that is only slowly beginning to get underway in fits and starts. The pent-up demand for international travel will hopefully coax many of your clients back into the sky. But what about those clients who are determined to hang close to home?
Try this exercise: go to Google and look at a map of the United States or Canada and pinpoint your home town. Next, draw an imaginary circle that extends roughly 8 – 12 hours driving time from home. If I do that from Tallahassee, the circle encompasses destinations like Key West, Tampa, Orlando, New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, the Smokey Mountains, Asheville, Savannah, Charleston… all noteworthy drive distance destinations. Yet, I would have to confess to knowing less about most of these locales as tourism destinations than I do about London or Paris.
Drive market travel deserves some portion of your attention right now. Those clients who will not get aboard with the bargains to Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America might well be willing to spend a few extra hours in the car with the kids. Fuel costs are low, domestic hotels eager for the business, and the safety of being less than a day’s drive from home will appeal to many who may otherwise opt out this year. Adding drive market product as a viable alternative to your mix right now is a good idea.
As a travel professional, your mission is to assist your clients to travel in all circumstances. Many times we overlook the possibilities inherent in the obvious. Use the ammunition that you have. For your most adventuresome clients, pro-actively call them up with some exciting possibilities of seeing Peru or Ireland, Hawaii or Egypt at far less than they could have ever believed. For those clients who are talking about no vacation this year, spend some time acquainting yourself with your best drive market destinations. Widen the scope of your thinking by looking at the travel opportunities, spas and resorts closest to home and learning how to market those. Become a local expert. There is a literal world of destinations from which you can choose, and some of those are only a few hours from home.