I recently had a speaking engagement in Banff. What an amazingly beautiful place! I was fortunate enough to be staying and speaking at the equally amazing and beautiful Fairmont Banff Springs hotel; a stunning magical castle in the mountains.
It was during a stroll down the main street of Banff that the magic was harshly interrupted. I had just encountered the first of a seemingly endless row of tacky tourist shops. Plastic Mounties, fuzzy slippers with moose antlers and shot glasses with random mountain scenes were on display in windows that lined the street. My personal “favorites” were the flashing key chains that blinked a misspelled “Welcome to Banf”.
I have a standing promise to my mom to send her postcards from every place I visit, no matter how many times I’ve been there before. So, I took a deep breath and dove in. By the fifth or sixth shop I realized that they ALL sold exactly the same postcards, plastic Mounties and fuzzy moose slippers.
I also realized that most of them had an exceedingly frantic, loud and annoying atmosphere. When I could take it no more I bought four postcards for a dollar and left in search of calm.
Finally, near the end of the street I heard the sweet sound of Mozart accompanied by the aroma of spiced apple cider. I had found a delightful oasis in a tasteful gift shop that would soon help me gladly lighten my wallet. They had comfy chairs, perfectly arranged books, neatly folded sweaters and shirts, helpful staff, and… fuzzy moose slippers.
This shop actually sold most of the same merchandise as the others–except the spelling-challenged key chains. The experience however, was completely different. It was a pleasure to shop there! They greeted me with genuine smiles and offers of warm cider. They quietly arranged the snow globes while chatting with shoppers about local sites and attractions. Then I noticed that they were selling a LOT more of the higher priced items than their neighbors up the street who struggled to push twenty-five cent postcards out the door!
That’s when it hit me. “This is just like travel agents!” You all sell from the same collection of tours, cruises, resorts and more. Some of them are bargain-basement discount products that would be in good company with flashing misspelled key chains. You also have countless opportunities to sell truly remarkable memory-making travel.
Unfortunately, just like postcards, some agents struggle to push as many three-day low-end cruises as possible. This often happens in the same frantic, loud and annoying atmosphere as the tacky tourist shops.
Then, there are those that understand that you are not just selling the experience of travel; you are selling the experience of you and your agency. A little Mozart and warm apple cider goes quite well along side a neatly arranged consultation. Sure you’ll have to sell some tacky tourist junk once in a while, but if you create the right atmosphere, you just might sell a little more of the good stuff.
I’m now sitting here warming my toes in fuzzy moose slippers and enjoying the Mozart CD I bought, as well as the $200 sweater they recommended, and I’m sipping the cider mix they served. It sure beats flashing key chains.
Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry. He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions (futureprooftravel.com) based in Vancouver, Canada. Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.