Here in Alberta, we’ve been feeling it financially. A lot of our economy is based on oil and gas, which is having tough times right now. There have been a lot of layoffs, which makes purchasing travel insurance a necessity. I’ve had a couple clients affected where we’re assessing the cancellation penalties before making the decision to cancel and hoping they find employment in the meantime. Even those who don’t work in the oil and gas field are being cautious with their spending.
Another problem for us is that the Canadian dollar isn’t doing well against the US dollar. Many of the cruises, resorts, and travel packages that we book are priced in US. This means that in Canadian, it’s about 30% more expensive than last year and forces us to get creative with other destination options.
Business hasn’t been as steady as in previous years. I’ve been making sure that I follow-up on all requests, even going back to last years unfulfilled inquiries—people who discussed a trip but didn’t travel. Some still aren’t planning a vacation; but some are, and it’s turned into a booking. I’ve always been afraid of coming across as too pushy. I think I’ve found the balance because I have been closing the sales!
Something else I’ve been doing is meeting with clients to discuss travel planning. Like a financial planner, we discuss their dream destinations or bucket list. They tell me where they want to go and I give them a suggestion of the time of year it would be best to visit (funny how they forget that different parts of the world have different seasons to us) and an approximate cost. While we try not to let price be the deciding factor, I always say that you need to know if it costs $1,000 or $10,000, or somewhere in between. I learn a lot about my clients during these meetings – more than just travel, but about their family and their interests. One client likes trains; when I come across articles about train travel, I send them to him as a way of keeping in touch.
In these tough times, I have found that I need to get creative and I’m just going to keep the communication with clients going. When the money is flowing better, I hope they’ll turn to me to take care of their travel arrangements. Fingers crossed!
Melanie Hersom is an independent consultant with Tier One Travel in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She believes in providing Personalized Vacations and Exotic Adventures. Melanie loves spending time with her granddaughter and looks forward the birth of two more grandchildren this year. “I don’t want to go anywhere twice until I’ve been everywhere once.”