As I write this, I just returned from an exhausting day of driving, eating, drinking, and mingling. In other words, I am escorting one of my group trips to a resort we frequent annually. Only I have not been here in more than a year and felt it was time to refresh my knowledge and re-connect with my clients on a personal, face-to-face level. And I am glad I did.
To remain competitive, properties must change. Over the past three years, this particular property has had a space that was under construction, which morphed into a conference center, and is now a state-of-the-art game room with a bowling alley. A lobby bar vanished. Their ski slope has been converted into a summer tubing slope. And, for good measure, they added a spa.
Sure, I knew about these changes from their website and from conversations during the booking process, but what these cannot tell you is how they will benefit your clients. For that, nothing beats a personal visit and the chance to put them through their paces. And I am very glad I was able to do just that. Additionally, it gives another opportunity to re-fresh and re-strengthen the relationships you have with the management and ownership—never a bad thing.
But more important than the nuts and bolts of the resort is the experience the clients receive. My room was comped, but I arrived a bit early and held off checking in to just see how the experience was for my clients. Were they greeted in a timely manner? Were they made to feel welcomed? Did the front desk give out the Single Parent Travel swag bags I had sent up in advance?
As the day progressed, I kept a keen eye on the service levels—from our welcoming meet and greet, to the games we played, to dinner, to drinks at the bar and down to the seating for the evening show. I specialize in group travel for single parents.
As a parent I know that when the kid is happy, the parent is happy. The resort is geared to the younger audience in terms of amenities, so it only made sense to chat up the kids. Were they having a good time (despite the rain)? What was their favorite thing so far? Did they like the food? Was the karaoke fun or lame? All of these questions give me insight to the experience my clients purchased.
I hung with the parents and listened to their conversations, asked them similar questions and bought a few bottles of wine to share. I point blank asked them where I (or the resort) fell down and missed the mark. They were frank with me and their input is valuable for the next trip—if it is here or another destination.
You see, times and people change. Just like the resort having to change around amenities to attract their clients, we need to change our business to attract and retain the clients. If you are selling the same old package with the same old stuff, you will not grow.
In the end, I really got rave reviews about the resort and a few suggestions for more fun things we could do as a group. I will walk away with renewed partnerships with my vendor, renewed relationships with my clients, and some solid ideas for running this trip next year and making it even better.
Sure, I could have relied on a post-trip survey to get some feedback. Sure, I could have relied on the resort’s website and marketing materials to sell the package. But what I came away with was far more valuable. Never underestimate the power of first-hand knowledge!