We all know that to be successful in travel, we need to specialize in something. That’s no big secret. Just compare a specialty agency (or agent) to a generalist and the benefits (and profits) will become obvious. But, one of the downfalls of specialization is that at one point, you might begin to think you know it all—after all, you are the “expert.”. And when you reach that point, it is time to shake things up a bit. Knowing it all is a very dangerous mindset to hold for very long.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. We are often asked so many routine questions time and time again that the answers just rattle off the tip of our tongues because, let’s face it, some things never change. But as good travel professionals, we try to keep up on the stuff that does change—destinations, hotels, ships, etc. But what about your clients? Or the traveling psyche of today’s traveler? Are you up to speed here? Or have you become a know-it-all?
Anyone can sell travel—to a point. If you need any further proof of that, look to YTB and the defunct Joystar. But to sell it effectively, it takes a lot more than a monthly payment for a cookie cutter website. The travel professional must be in touch with the trends of travelers in general and more specifically the ever changing needs of their particular client.
Look at Vegas. Las Vegas was a hotbed of debauchery many years ago. When bookings started to drop, they reinvented themselves as a family destination complete with M&M’s World. When bookings began to drop again, they re-invented themselves toward a more adults-only destination. Las Vegas gets it. Do you?
For years, my company organized a group to Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf Club in Jamaica. The price point was right, the location was attractive to my clients, and we always sold out. I thought I knew it all. I found a successful formula and worked it. But, one year, my bookings dipped slightly. Noticeably absent were two of my annual clients. I called and discovered they decided to sit out that year, save their money and look for a more upscale resort the following year. And, here I thought I knew it all. The following year, we added a concurrent trip to Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa to accommodate those looking for a more upscale experience. It sold well and did not hurt the Boscobel trip in the least. For four years, we maintained equal numbers of guests on each trip. Because I realized I did not know it all, I more than doubled my income on this single program.
If we fast forward to this year, I discovered that my Turks & Caicos clients had indeed shifted again. No longer were we booking the entry level deluxe rooms—the vast majority are in the Italian Village or in concierge level suites.
So, what happens if you are not in tune? Well, for starters, you will leave a lot of money on the table for someone else to claim. You run the risk of your clients pigeonholing you into a specific type of travel, which could prove catastrophic. Let’s say you establish your business marketing to the entry level mass market cruiser. If you do not evolve with the industry and your clients, your business will be suffering. Yes, there will still be entry level cruisers for you—but you need to fight to get them. It is much easier to retain a client. But if you are not in tune, you and your clients will miss out on River Cruising (who ever considered that in 1995?) and all inclusive cruising.
Survival today is not just about offering products and experiences within your comfort level. Survival is about knowing the trends of the industry and adjusting accordingly and also knowing the trends of your clients and prospects.
TIP OF THE DAY: Look at your open and click-through rates on your email broadcasts. See if they have declined over the past 6 months. If so, you might be a know it all. Time to change it up.
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