For advisors looking to cash in on group travel as the world prepares to reopen, the impact COVID has on groups is multiplying the complexity of organizing and selling these trips.
Some travel advisors are asking themselves if they should require vaccinations for all group guests, even when traveling to a destination that doesn’t require it. If they do, that could hurt sales with prospects who say they have no intention of getting vaccinated—about one in five Americans according to the latest polls.
If advisors don’t require vaccines, might the prospect of being in close contact with group members who aren’t vaccinated dampen interest for travelers who are? Read the rest of this entry »
As the world slowly reopens, travelers are finally turning inspiration into action. They are looking at the travel dreams they’ve kept locked down with them inside their homes the last year, and they are setting them free with family, friends and total strangers.
Years of research by organizations like MMGY and Destination Analysts shows that most consumers spend the initial phases of their travel purchase journey speaking to trusted members of their personal network.
They’re looking for ideas: “Where did you guys go in 2019 again?”
They’re looking for validation: “What were the beaches like at that all-inclusive in Cancun?”
They’re narrowing down their options: “Tuscany and Venice, or Rome and Capri?” Read the rest of this entry »
Travel is on the rise. Advance bookings are looking strong well into the fall. Advisor friends of mine are reporting some resorts are booked solid for weeks. Car rental rates and airfares are reported to be soaring in markets where demand is far outstripping the slow return of supply.
And then there’s COVID, creating a complex web of travel requirements that change seemingly week to week, and month to month. One wrong move and a traveler could find themselves being denied boarding or entry into a country, or be stuck in their destination because they don’t have a negative COVID test Read the rest of this entry »
In last week’s column, we discussed how not every potential traveler is an ideal client for a travel advisor. This goes beyond the style of travel an advisor focuses on—“I’m a romance travel advisor. I don’t work with families.”
Despite the fact that professional advisors are so good at matching ideal clients with the right vacation experience, I believe they receive too little support from suppliers and destinations in generating sales leads that make everyone more money.
In my consulting work and writing, I still see and hear about how most suppliers and destinations shape their travel advisor partnerships from a “me-centric” viewpoint Read the rest of this entry »
Outside of “pent-up demand,” the most overused and misused phrase in the travel industry right now has to be “ideal client.” I hear it all the time from suppliers and destinations, as well as marketing gurus and consultants—including yours truly.
Though, seldom do I hear these two words taught or described in a way where a travel entrepreneur can go and figure out who this magical persona is. Also, frequently left unsaid is what do these “ideal clients” want to achieve on their next vacation, and how can a travel advisor like you uniquely attract them? Read the rest of this entry »
As much as I’m an eternal optimist, I am very much a pragmatist as well. I need to see the spring bulbs poking through the hard winter soil to get excited about warmer weather and longer days. February thaws have never deceived me.
Well, after 12 long and often dreary months, I’m optimistic about the travel industry’s near-term future. I’m seeing a number of proverbial “green shoots” gathering into a warmer, more welcoming, narrative for the return of travel.
If you’ve been following this column since we launched it last September, you know that I love and depend on data to inform my business decisions and advise my consulting clients. Read the rest of this entry »
For years, travel advisors have told me that, after asking a client for their vacation budget, offering travel insurance is the second most difficult conversation that they have with their customers.
“I don’t want to remind them that something could go wrong just when they’re getting excited about going somewhere,” is the oft-spoken explanation that I hear from even experienced advisors.
“Insurance is so complicated. It’s regulated and I could get into trouble for saying the wrong thing. I don’t know that I’m expert enough to even start the conversation.”
Sound familiar? Totally logical? Pre-pandemic it was. Read the rest of this entry »
Fam Trips. They are the number one tool travel advisors want for educating themselves about a destination and/or a supplier. Makes sense, right?
You can take all of the online training you want. You can attend industry conferences and see a dozen sales presentations. But there is nothing like being in a destination, and testing out a supplier’s product, to be able to know whether or not those places, services and experiences are right for your clients.
So, when Travel Business Mastermind conducted a survey about the various services and support travel advisors receive from the industry, what I didn’t expect to learn was that the number one benefit agents want from a Fam trip is – wait for it – room inspections. Read the rest of this entry »
As much as we hate it, COVID has sent us back indoors. For an industry that is the polar opposite of lockdowns and physical distancing, this is the cruelest blow. In order to maintain contact with clients and keep them inspired about traveling again, just about everyone—including me—has resorted to video broadcasts of one kind or another.
For so many travel advisors, the most common concept has been a 60-minute Zoom webinar co-produced and co-sponsored with a supplier or destination. Since these became the rage starting in early summer, I’ve sat through about 50 of them. I took copious notes about things like number of attendees, quality of the presentations, attendee engagement, etc. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been consulting with travel agencies of various shapes and sizes for about four years now, helping them look at their businesses as “business owners,” versus “travel agents.” During these 48 months, many issues have challenged them to better manage their companies.
Take the whole “consumer direct” firestorm about four years ago, when the major hotel chains aggressively pushed guests to book through their loyalty programs. Then the growth of Airbnb became a big concern. Advisors worried that their clients would decamp to the home share website for their lodging and experiences.
And nothing has been a bigger problem the last 12 months than the depressed travel demand and general craziness surrounding COVID-19 Read the rest of this entry »
It’s the most maligned segment of the travel industry – cruises. Some will say rightly so, because cruise ships have the inherent weakness of being a contained environment where people frequently are restricted in close quarters.
But others would say that this same weakness is their strength. If cruise lines can better screen who boards their ships, and establish quick response protocols to contain an onboard outbreak, to some degree, cruising could become a floating extended travel bubble.
I’m no epidemiologist, but a slew of them last fall put together a comprehensive plan for trying to minimize onboard outbreaks. In their report, they stated that “with the ongoing advances in areas such as testing and therapies, our recommendations provide cruise operators with a robust set of thoughtful preparations Read the rest of this entry »
We’ve gotten through the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden. The new administration is trying to take a national approach on both the distribution of Coronavirus vaccines and increasing travel safety by imposing mask mandates for air travel.
At the same time, experts are predicting new COVID-19 cases could be peaking in the next few weeks—although hospitalizations and deaths will lag for a few weeks after that due to the nature of the disease.
What this means for travel advisors is that the resilient desire by Americans to travel could see a boost by the end of February.
I think the main reason why I became a journalist is that I’m fascinated by human nature. I love interviewing people and listening for indications about what makes them tick. That talent naturally translated over to being a business coach. Getting someone focused on who they are, and why they do what they do, removes a lot of the friction entrepreneurs create in the pursuit of their goals.
What I have come to realize, in the more than 35 years that I’ve been studying human nature, is that the most consistently successful people are driven by an openness to constant improvement. What they are doing today is not necessarily going to be good enough for them tomorrow, or next week, or next year.
When we get complacent, we can think there’s little work we have to do on ourselves and our business, until something like a pandemic comes crashing in. Read the rest of this entry »
The foundation of success in communications is to know your audience – to whom are you speaking. If you don’t know who your audience is, you are going to struggle with even figuring out what you want to say.
Here’s an example: I’m Starbucks. I sell coffee, tea and other beverages, and some other notable items. Now, I have to develop a website, marketing materials, emails, and social media posts.
I could start the process of building all of that out by writing something like: “We have the best tasting coffee in town.” It tells one of our stories. We sell coffee. It’s boastful. We sell “the best tasting coffee.”
But how is that going to resonate with our audience? If my coffee is a dark roast, that is more of an acquired taste than say a deli’s coffee, or the coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions myself. For me, every day is the best day to resolve to do something different, to get on schedule to doing and being something new.
However, if you’re still looking for some promises to make to yourself, let me offer three ideas below. They’re all about getting to the heart of your compelling narrative and unleashing its power to grow your travel business.
Why do I believe storytelling is important? Like business guru Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
I can purchase travel directly from a supplier. Read the rest of this entry »
What a strange holiday season this has been. I have to be honest with you, I’m not feeling it.
More than 300,000 Americans have died due to Coronavirus and the number of daily new COVID-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate. Over the weekend, European countries started to announce restrictions on U.K. travelers to protect themselves from the next mutation taking hold in England.
Whenever I’ve gone through troubling times like these in my life, I’ve found two things help me get through. One is to focus on my strengths, and the things that I can control. (Hence the name of this column.)
The second thing I focus on is trying to be of service to others. Helping other people is a source of endorphins for me. I have heard from friends and colleagues Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last ten months, just about everyone I follow on social media seems to have earned a degree in virology. At least that’s the way their social media activity comes across.
They’re using this “degree” to not only make decisions for themselves, but to help make decisions for others. I have fallen into this trap myself at times, thinking that reading studies and staying on top of the latest developments makes me some kind of expert.
Of course, I’m not.
I hope I haven’t led anyone astray with the facts that I have interpreted and the knowledge that I have repeated – especially since so much is on the line for the travel industry, travelers and the general public.
Well, to get level set, I decided to speak to someone in the travel industry who also happens to be a registered nurse, and part of a large family of healthcare professionals.
Nadia Henry has been offering travel services through her company, Travel with Sparkle, since 2007. Read the rest of this entry »
During one of the last phone conversations I had with Jim Smith before he passed away earlier this year, he and I were speaking confidentially about my desire to lead change in the travel industry. It was mid-March and I was expressing my frustration with the industry’s approach to travel advisors.
I was telling Jim how I felt too many suppliers paid little more than lip service to the value advisors deliver. I was saying that given what I had experienced, advisors were seen more as just another sales channel, not as professional salespeople who could create new business for their supplier partners and upsell clients to higher margin purchases.
I also expressed to Jim that this wasn’t solely my opinion; that I had lost count of the number of tenured travel advisors who had told me they feel this way too. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m so glad I took economics and history in college. My professors taught me two immutable facts.
1) Humans are creatures of habits – some of which are hard to break.
2) Given enough time and free moving capital, economies grow.
Now, some things change significantly as a result of a recession. And recoveries from financial crises don’t follow a common schedule. In many cases, changes, like the increase in healthcare costs we’ve experienced the last 30 years, or pro-longed stagnation of wages, leave a lasting mark that could change some of our habits.
But for the most part, humans don’t easily change, the globe continues to spin, and activities like travel grow. Which leads me to the COVID-19 travel recession. Read the rest of this entry »
Editor’s Note: This article was incorrectly published under Mike’s 1-Minute Marketing column yesterday. This is a corrected publication and attributed to the author Richard D’Ambrosio. Thank you.
Even when times are good, sometimes Thanksgiving is a difficult concept for me to grasp. It calls on me to distinguish between wants and needs, and explore what true gratitude feels like and how I put my thankfulness to work.
I wanted the Mazda CX-5 I currently own because its practical, gets good gas mileage, has a sunroof – and it’s red, my favorite color. I shop for certain foods in my home because my children and I enjoy the way they taste, and they’re generally healthy for us to eat.
But I noticed something recently, when my car didn’t work properly. What I treasure more than my car’s sunroof, Bose sound system, comfort, etc., is that it affords me freedom. Living in a New York City exurb, you really can’t get very far quickly here if you don’t own an auto that runs properly. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the course of two months, I’ve tried to use most of these columns to reimagine our industry with a focus on the relationships advisors have with suppliers, destinations, and other third parties. I’ve advocated for the industry making a commitment to live up to its long-standing mantra – “travel advisors are our greatest partners.”
I say “live up to” because, while I think travel advisors have never had more respect from others for the value they create, I still see a good portion of our industry paying lip service to the notion that advisors are treated like true partners.
I see it in the travel advisor education portals that suppliers and destinations publish, which are for the most part focused on teaching features and benefits. Our industry conferences do much of the same. Read the rest of this entry »