Let’s just say that unique times call for unique strategies. Being so deep in the throes of omicron concerns (could that have been just a couple of weeks ago?), it’s not surprising that some travel advisors took a step beyond the usual marketing strategies to reach new and existing customers.
Leave it to the younger generation to head for Hulu. While everyone agrees that taking a group by the hand and posting your adventures on social media is the best way to build confidence among customers, 29-year-old Dillon Guyer put together “some incredible footage” he filmed of everything from Clearwater, Florida, to Virgin Voyages, Athens and Istanbul while he did that. He then posted it on the Hulu channel using a new program in beta testing.
With an investment of $2,000, Guyer signed up for a plan that bills him every time a Hulu customer plays his ad; so far, his 30-second video has been seen by 20,000 people who never before heard of Guyer International Travel.
“You can choose the demographics and the zip codes you want to reach,” he says, “and it’s very user friendly. I paid someone to edit my video, spent maybe 15-20 minutes to upload it and selected the demographics, and I’m seeing the success of it already. I started right before Christmas and I’d say I’ve had easily over 100 inquiries, and 40 or 50 people put down a deposit. I have made back the expenses of my trips and I’m ready to put down another $2,000.”
So far, Guyer says he has booked a $17,000 Dubai-Egypt-Tanzania trip; a family cruise, about 10 cabins on the Prima, “easily a $40,000 group”; and 15 miscellaneous Cancun/Riviera Maya all-inclusive resort trips.
YouTube for You
Meanwhile, while she’s not yet on Hulu, Dream Vacations franchise owner Lainey Melnick credits her “very extensive social media strategy” with keeping her business on track to sell at least $1 million this year. While sales were slow, she put all her energy into building five different Facebook accounts as well as accounts on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok that now add up to 17,000 regular followers.
“I am heavily into video; I use TikTok as well as Facebook and Instagram,” she says. “Last week I posted about an amazing deal for Atlas Ocean Voyages Antarctica; they had a charter that canceled, so they just went really dirt low to try to fill up the ship. And it worked. I was going to add a video—but before I could I had five customers ready to book.”
That kind of response is not just luck, Melnick says. “I have a very good network of people around my age (I am 59) who are luxury-oriented, and my posts are high up in the search engines because they are so consistent. I do them all myself; I have an assistant, but I don’t usually have her do postings for me. It’s a face-to-face world—and I want it to be my face they see.”
She shares the spotlight with suppliers, though, by tagging them, so their audiences see her posts. “When I did my post for Atlas, they reposted it in their story. Sometimes we have an agreement to do that but, this time, they just really liked my post and reposted it.”
It’s not always about the destination or the supplier, either. On YouTube, for example, “I videotaped my own travel and walk people through the travel experience, showing the requirements for the different destinations. And I do get a lot of bookings from my YouTube channel,“she says.
Melnick’s videos “are a kind of a story that takes you from the beginning to the end.” For a cruise, she will do in-depth reviews of everything on the ship including the restaurants; “it’s about showing people how fun and easy it is.” Her longer videos run up to four hours; shorter ones are also available, and point people to the long video for more detail. Her most popular has about 100,000 hits. And her average watch time is 25 minutes—quite long for a YouTube viewer to stick with a video.
In the next two months Melnick will take and video three trips, the first hosted by the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel, then sailing HAL Rotterdam, and Antarctica in March. “This has been working really well for me,” she says. “It’s all clicking into place.”
Don’t Forget That Pretty Face
But while videos are a great way to reach new customers, some say it’s more important than ever for travel advisors to put a human face in front of customers who have spent months looking at webinars.
Tauck vice president Steve Spivak says the best way to calm the concerns of hesitant travelers is the old-fashioned way that has worked so well for the travel industry: It’s time for travel advisors to start doing face-to-face events again.
“We need to relearn that it’s OK to be together—and that starts with travel advisors saying, ‘let’s talk about travel in person again,’” Spivak says. “Travel advisors have become such a trusted source of information—and it’s appropriate for them to lead the way.”
Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook.
As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business and technology sectors.