The old adage, “strike while the iron is hot” holds a lot of truth. And today, I have a hot iron for you—but don’t worry, I suspect there is still a bit of time to do your striking. If you have traveled through an airport recently (any airport will do), judging from the lines and the crowds, you might assume that everyone is traveling. I know when I travel, it seems they are all traveling on my plane and claiming luggage from my luggage carousel and fighting for the same taxi I want. But, that assumption, could not be any more wrong.
A recent poll by One Poll for Victorinox offered some pretty stunning results. Two thousand Americans were polled and here are some key numbers:
- 54% have traveled to fewer than 10 states
- 11% have never left the state in which they were born
- 40% have never left the United States
I am going to pause here and let those numbers stew around in your brain for a minute!
Are you thinking what I am thinking? What a huge opportunity. Let’s do some quick math. 300 million US residents—120 million of them have never left the country. Assuming all states have an equal population of 6 million, each state has 660,000 that have never left the state!
Let’s tap into that huge market!
What is keeping these folks from exploring the US and beyond? Well, here are the top reasons:
- Lack of knowledge of the destination
- Work restraints
And we can address each of them.
Finances. Finances are different for everyone. My personal problem is that I plan with my wallet and not the wallet of the customer. I assume they are looking for the least expensive, when that often is not the case. If people have the perception that travel is expensive (ok, there is a cost to it), let’s change that. Make sure you are working with consolidators for international airfare. Utilize all promotions with your preferred suppliers. Yes, there are $299 vacations out there. Most people do not have the means to plunk down a payment in full immediately, so help them plan and dream. Explain that the dream cruise can be taken next spring with a $100 deposit now and several other payments between now and then. Find ways to make it affordable.
Lack of knowledge. There is no excuse for this. We are the experts and we have to give them the knowledge (or find the knowledge to give to them) to make them comfortable. Is your client hesitating on the Dominican Republic because if the reported deaths? Explain that it is isolated. I can’t tell you how many clients have been frightened by a news report about some uprising or violence at a destination without understanding that it is like the difference between Chicago and Las Vegas. Would you tell someone to not to travel to Vegas because the violence may be out of control in Chicago? Of course not!
Work restraints. This is the most difficult, and you will not be able to affect the change. But you can change the mindset. Study after study shows the value of time away from work. More and more frequently, employees feel they need to be available 24-7, which is detrimental to your physical and mental health. Embark on a publicity campaign. Contact your local papers. Speak to human resources at local companies to see if they might consider an incentive trip—get the conversation started. Speak to your clients and get their thoughts on how they feel when they return from a vacation. With enough messaging, it can work and we may be able to move the needle just a little bit.
This study was shocking to me. Travel professionals have been around for more than a century and the Internet has become ubiquitous for travel and travel information. Why haven’t we done a better job? We need to do a better job. The iron is here. It is hot. We need to strike!