Things change! Did 2020 prove that or what? And the travel industry is about to undergo a significant shift in 2021 and beyond in the way it works. There will be challenges. There will be wins, and losses. I was having dinner with an agency owner the other week and we were discussing (and maybe arguing) how the industry must adapt to a changing travel world that is yet to be defined. Here’s what we came up with!
Invest in Online Events
People are busy. Not everyone can get to that cruise night you hope to hold. Set up a series of webinars, seminars, training, or just a face-to-face (via Zoom) Q&A session. Archive them and now they are available at your clients’ convenience. Bonus points, you slowly build your CRM database with the live attendees—make sure to capture at minimum their name and email.
Own Your Property
I’ve said it before, if you play in someone else’s sandbox with their toys, you can’t complain when they take them and go home. You must have your own web presence. Sure you need to use the social platforms, but always (let me repeat that for those in the back of the room) ALWAYS, need to have your own space. Where would you be today if you had all of your info on Vine, or Google Wave, or Google +, or Parler? What happens if you are put in permanent Facebook jail? Own your own stuff!
Invest in Your Brand Image
Image is everything. People make decisions about buying in an instant. And if that image is not up to snuff, you are out of luck. Buy real business cards (no freebies from Vista Print). Pay for a custom theme for your website. Have a professional design your logo. You get the drift. If you want to do it using amateurs, don’t be surprised if you come off looking like an amateur travel pro!
Don’t Sell! Educate!
Americans see and hear between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements each day. Let that sink in for a minute! Now you can see why it has become easy to tune out the ads. No one likes to be sold to. But everyone likes to learn more. Educate your clients. Show them the value in a travel professional. Explain the difference between a FIT and an organized tour. Become the expert in your niche. It will resonate with your clients.
Keep It Simple Stupid! As you market (or sell yourself) don’t give away the farm. Keep your content simple and easy to digest. Make sure it is quality content (see #3) and reap the rewards. In 2015, there was an article on how many pages it would take to print the Internet. 136 billion back then. I haven’t had time to count lately, but there is a ton of content out there and sifting through it is tough. If nothing else this past election proved that we don’t know who to believe. Don’t be part of the noise. Keep it simple and easy to understand!
Know Thine Client
Make sure you know your client. This is where a great CRM comes into play. If they are on Facebook, chat them up there. Do they prefer email or phone? Text or a Twitter DM? Do some AB testing on your email broadcasting and see what clients read your email and when—and then send to them at the right time. And for crying out loud, use the available personalization features. Everyone loves to hear and see their own name. Use it!
Tell Better Stories
We work in the most exciting industry in the world. We get to see the wonders of this world ourselves and through the eyes of our clients. So, why would anyone want to go see any destination with a mundane description? “You can see up to 12 miles from the top of the Eiffel Tower and there usually is a long line.” Versus, “You need to get to the top, not the mid-point, because, from that vantage point, the City of Light is laid out beneath you, you can see the hustle and bustle of the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe and all the way to the dome of Sacré-Cœur, and can even check out a bird’s eye view of the repair to Notre Dame. The lines can be long, but once you get to the top, OMG.” See the difference?
It’s 2021. We are learning to do more with less. Technology is moving at blinding speed which can make your job a lot easier. Outside the travel realm, I produce a short daily news podcast. Thanks to automation, once I upload the file it is sent to a website, several Facebook pages, YouTube, Twitter, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc. One click. I make use of a relatively free service (I say relatively because it used to be free but it now has a minimal cost) called IFTTT which stands for If This Then That. Flashback to coding days! But you connect your different platforms and move your content between them. IF someone sends a message to you on your Facebook page, THEN send me a text message alerting me. I mean really, does anyone monitor those Facebook messages. The options are endless!
If 2020 taught us anything, it was that what was, may very well not be. Be ready to change at a moment’s notice (mid-year resolution to never use the word “pivot” again unless I am discussing farm irrigation). Not suggesting it would happen, but if Facebook were to go away, what do you do? Your hosting company goes belly up along with your website? There is nothing worse than getting caught with your pants down—literally or figuratively. Anticipate when you can. Read and try to be as prepared as possible.
Moving forward, we know that our clients will become more demanding. That’s why we need to adapt and be prepared to adapt again!
Are you ready? I am.