As I (and my kids) get older, I really do not look forward to the holidays. Everyone is so busy and the stress level goes through the roof. Gifts to buy. Food to cook. Parties to attend. Oh yeah, and a travel business to run. But, with each year that passes, there is an upside!
Happy New Year! Once the celebrations calm down, for me there is nothing better than the New Year. It is a combination of a clean desk, washed blackboard, blank canvas, and empty appointment book all rolled up into one. We somewhat shut down Travel Research Online at the end of the year partially to recharge our own batteries and it always works for me.
I see 2014 rife with tremendous opportunities in the travel industry. I believe we have finally seen the last remnants of the recession and people, as Southwest Airlines says, are now free to move about. While mainstream travel will still be strong, all indicators say that today’s traveler (at least the ones that will utilize the services of a qualified agent) is looking for immersive and experiential travel. The 7-night vacation in Cancun might be some icing on your profit and loss cake, but you need to understand that any consumer can buy that vacation from thousands of sources. Typically, there is nothing special that a travel professional can bring to that transaction—unless it is a milestone trip.
Technology and social media is still advancing at such an incredible pace. While most people see the Internet as a tool for us, we do need to be mindful that it is also a competitor and we need to make sure we are doing something that sets us apart from the competition.
If you find yourself relying on “brochure travel,” now might be a time to see what you can bring to the table. Brochure travel can easily be spiced up—forge a relationship with a local cooking school and let your clients learn how to cook regional cuisine. Hook up with a local school and let your clients’ children experience a morning in a Caribbean school. Or maybe just work with local tour operators to offer add-ons that no one else does. When I was in Vegas recently, I took a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon—a brochure travel experience. But I selected Maverick helicopters because they landed on the floor of the Grand Canyon, offered lunch, and (most important) had a member of the Hualapai Indian Tribe come to spend time with us and explain their history with the Canyon. Sure, it cost a bit more, but the experience is something my children and I will remember for a long time.
If you are already specializing—make sure you are identifying the social channels related to your specialty. My agency specializes in single parent travel and I am members of many online groups including single parents, divorce groups, widow/ers groups and more. I am convinced that social platforms will only continue to grow and will likely surpass traditional marketing in the not too distant future. Identify the platforms that support your agency and go there.
Take advantage of a fresh start. Wipe the chalkboard clean. Clear the desk. Fill in the calendar. And, let’s all toast to a New Year that looks to be better than then ever!