“We are dream makers, not order takers.” That is a favorite mantra for a lot of travel professionals. We pride ourselves on our ability to consult with clients, not simply take their order to book an XYZ cruise. However, I think many of us, me included, drop the ball with some clients. We should be helping our clients create their dream vacations, not settle for a less-than-dreamy experience because of their budget. But so many of us let our clients pigeonhole us into their budgets, that the clients will never get to go on their dream vacation.
We have all probably had that one customer that ties their vacation planning to their tax refund. The bigger the refund that they get, the bigger the vacation that they’ll take that year. And if they don’t get a refund, that year’s trip becomes a “staycation” at the local miniature golf course. It can be depressing for them, and frustrating for us. I have one client whose dream vacation is a world cruise. At the rate she is going, she’ll never get to do it. She will never get a tax refund big enough to fund anything longer than a 7 to 10 night cruise. It’s my job to help her go on that dream vacation.
But I’m not a financial planner. I struggle with my own financial planning, so I’m definitely not in a place to advise others. But I am a networker. I have met several financial planners over the years at networking events, and have developed partnerships with two of them. I help my clients plan their dream vacation – like a world cruise – and in today’s dollars, we figure out what it would cost. If my client doesn’t already work with a financial planner, I refer them to one of the two financial planners that I met through networking. Also, these financial planners always ask their clients what they want to finance in the future. More often than not, travel is in the mix, but they have no clue how much money the clients need to have for the travel they want to plan. They refer those clients to me, and I help them put together their dream vacation, including what it would cost in today’s dollars.
In both cases, the financial planners help the clients invest and save wisely so that they can afford that once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list dream vacation by the target date the clients have set (25th wedding anniversary, 50th birthday, empty-nester celebration, retirement celebration, etc.). And when the clients are ready to embark on their dream vacation, I book it for them.
Money is not always an easy topic to discuss with clients; it requires a little finesse. I recommend starting with asking your clients one simple question: if you won the Powerball this week, and money was not a consideration, what would your dream vacation look like? After you have qualified their dream vacation, ask them if you would like them to price it out based on today’s prices, so they can plan to take that vacation in a reasonable time frame (i.e. five years from now; not 25 years from now). You can simply suggest that they can take the information to their financial planner to put a plan in place so they can afford the trip in the time frame they set. If they don’t have a financial planner, offer to refer them to someone you’ve built a relationship with.
Consulting goes beyond helping them decide which ship, itinerary, and room category that they want to book for this year’s vacation. It also should include helping them plan for future vacations that may require more than a tax refund to pay for it.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.