Stop selling travel, start selling magic | TravelResearchOnline


Stop selling travel, start selling magic

I love San Francisco.  I’ve been there many times, but just recently got to play tour guide for a first-timer. I hadn’t ridden the cable cars in years, and had forgotten the “secret” nobody tells you.  “Do I need a ticket? Where do I get it? Which line do I stand in?”  Everyone was asking same questions. 

After an hour of standing in line to buy tickets, followed by another hour to board the car I finally remembered the secret. 

We rode 2 blocks up Powell Street where “those in the know” climbed on board with no wait at all (there are always a few spots available).  They handed cash or a pass to the driver and up the hill we went.

I had watched dozens of people give up in frustration.  Or, they discovered the secret two-hours and two-blocks later.  Did you know the secret?  Do you tell your clients?

A man sitting next to me (a local) said: “I love the cable cars, they’re part of the magic here.”  He insisted we check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.  I’d seen it on the tourist maps for years but assumed it would be a disappointment.  I was wrong.

In a hot, crowded space down a tiny aging alley we found more magic.  We watched two bizarre carousels of miniature waffle irons open, get filled with batter, close and move into the oven.  Moments later they emerged from the other side, opened and revealed a golden disk.  In seconds, two Chinese women peeled them off with their bare hands, stuck in a fortune and folded them into the familiar shape.

The smell and the taste were amazing.  The sample was so hot I could barely hold it, leaving me in awe of the barehanded cookie folders.  I bought every flavor they had and I can’t wait to go back.

This is travel.  These are the details that transform a common trip into an exhilarating experience. Travel AGENTS talk about price quotes and availability.  Travel CONSULTANTS talk about magic.

Price quotes sell travel.  Magic sells travel and fees.  Magic builds relationships.  Magic can create memories for your clients and work wonders for your business.

Stop selling travel.  Start selling magic.

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 ( 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.

  7 thoughts on “Stop selling travel, start selling magic

  1. Dear Nolan: Loved your post! I believe this magic happens from the first phone call or email to our office and is based on a personal connection and true understanding of the client. If this happens, it’s a magical sailing throughout for both guest and advisor and the prospect of years of future business. If the connection does not occur, neither does the magic, and the experience for traveler and advisor alike is ho hum — and little to no future business. It’s this process of “connection” leading to the magic we need to understand more fully. Perhaps other advisors can weigh in on this, too. Thanks again. Sincerely, Eleanor Hardy, President, The Society of International Railway Travelers

  2. Nolan Burris says:

    Thanks Eleanor! Your magical comment will have me smiling all day. Never stop doing what you’re doing. You’re an inspiration!

  3. Linda Dancer says:

    Hi Nolan

    Loved your post as well ! So very true, whether driven by the economy, sales goals set by the office or whatever so many travel agents just sell trips to anybody for any price just to close the sale, instead of listening to the client and then trying to paint pictures for them based upon your personal experience with the destination and as you say,selling the magic that captured your heart the first time you visited there. As a professional travel consultant there is no substitute for the relationships you build with clients.

  4. What a wonderful article Nolan. As a travel consultant, I am often faced with questions about the differences between being an Agent and a Consultant. I actaully enjoy spending time explaining why I’m different but your post summed it up so perfectly and directly.

    I especially like this quote “Travel AGENTS talk about price quotes and availability. Travel CONSULTANTS talk about magic.”

    I hope you don’t mind if I use that line in the future. 🙂

  5. Chanté says:

    Nolan, that was brilliant, and such perfect timing. I was just grousing in the forum about the lack of customer service that is prevalent in every industry now days; however, your post made me think about what I can do to instill the magic in my business. This will be something that I will be seriously thinking about and delving in to as I work on my plans for 2013.

  6. Great article Nolan, the magic is what differentiates you from your competition, I find many agents are so concerned about finding the very lowest price they forget about providing value and magic!
    I have posted a link to this article on our FB page and will be sharing it with our 24,000 worldwide members.

  7. Nolan – you have this really annoying trend: your articles really hit the ball out of the park!

    It’s incredibly easy to lose sight of WHY someone wants to travel or go to a specific destination, and to find ways to make that as memorable as possible. As travel professionals, it’s vital that we set ourselves apart from less personalized travel sellers (such as online websites/agencies) – helping the cilents find the magic is what we do!

    Thanks again for another thought-provoking afternoon!

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA

Share your thoughts on “Stop selling travel, start selling magic”

You must be logged in to post a comment.