“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle.
You probably think of yourself as a travel agent, travel advisor, a travel counselor or a travel planner or some variation thereof. People entrust you with their vacations, their dreams, travel plans, their travel ambitions. You, in turn, access the tools at hand and make your clients’ dreams come true. Your tools are your experience, your relationships with suppliers, your sense of detail and customer service. Every now and then, however, maybe you glimpse that you are something more than a travel agent, counselor or planner. Sometimes you might just sense that you pass right over into the realm of the magician – that ability to transform travel from a trip into an experience.
The quote from Kurt Vonnegut above is one of my favorite travel quotes. How many times have you traveled off the well-worn path, taken a left instead of a right in a maze of streets, visited a destination unexpectedly and walked into an amazing experience? Often, the unplanned, unexpected part of the journey is the most rewarding, what you remember most from the trip. Your passion for travel renewed, you begin thinking about the next trip, and the next. You know you will live some major portion of your life on the road.
We tend to sell ourselves short, to fail to realize the important role we can play in the lives of our clients and, interestingly, in the lives of the people our clients meet on their travels. Who knows what chain of events you may put into place simply by making a booking?
My greatest adventures, my best memories have been a part of my travel experiences. I’ll bet you would likely say the same.
At the outset of the Covid-19 travel shutdown, true travel professionals demonstrated their value as never before and have continued to do so through the innumerable cancellation and re-booking cycles of late, right through the resurgence where forced to deal with understaffed suppliers and telephone wait times ranging into hours. Hear me now and believe me later. The best of you cannot be disintermediated, replaced or displaced. Your passion for travel, the pains you take on your client’s behalf are a sacrifice to a greater cause -to a world of personal experience and cultural understanding beyond your knowing.
In your client relationships, play the role of the expert. Make recommendations and suggestions. Never again be content to merely book another cruise or put your client on another bus just because that’s what the client tells you they want. Your client may not really know what they want. You are the expert in the relationship. Work into your travel practice a bit of craft, a small bit of magic – push your clients’ boundaries. Maybe it’s the recommendation to visit Egypt instead of the beach this year. Maybe it’s the volunteerism travel or cultural tourism you conjure as a possibility. Maybe it’s as simple as suggesting a locally owned boutique hotel instead of a mid-city commercial property.
I trust you’ll know the opportunity when you see it.
You’re not “just” a travel advisor. You do not exist just to do what’s expected of you. Do the unexpected, be more than your client can possibly anticipate.
And, on occasion, hand out a peculiar travel suggestion.