Swag bags are not just for movie stars and corporate VIPs – they are useful tools that travel agents can use to cement relationships with clients.
A gift basket stocked with freebies from suppliers and items purchased at a dollar store; giving your client a lottery ticket, or delivering a pizza to a client’s home are a few ways that agents can up the ante on customer service, according to panelists at a session called Adding the Sizzle at the recent Home-Based Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas.
People love freebies
“Swag bags really delight clients,” said Martha Powell, an Albuquerque-based travel seller who organizes an annual wine-themed cruise at WineMakersCruise.com. “People love getting freebies. As agents, we’re used to them, but most people aren’t – so they get very excited.”
Swag figures into a pre-cruise event that Powell hosts for passengers on the winemakers’ cruise. The event features a chef’s wine pairing, specialty truffles and a swag bag filled with freebies.
“It’s easy to fill a swag bag by contacting vendors for free stuff,” she said. Along with asking tourism organizations to provide T-shirts and other logoed items, she gets T-shirts, wine openers and other items from the winemakers whose wines are featured at events during the cruise.
“I tell the vendors that T-shirts and the like are good advertising for them,” she said. “We also approach restaurants for discount coupons that people can use during the pre-cruise stay.”
Another perk for clients is a slide show and DVD made during the cruise that they can enjoy after the trip.
Cruises for cancer survivors
Powell employs similar techniques on fundraising cruises that she organizes for cancer survivors, partnering with organizations such as the New Mexico Cancer Center and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
“The New Mexico Cancer Center, which we do fundraising for, has donated pill holders,” she said. “Susan G. Komen will give us scarves, which we also buy. And we get the cruise line to donate door prizes.”
Special gifts for special clients
Powell also makes it a practice to reward her best clients with a special gift each year, perhaps a piece of silver and turquoise jewelry from New Mexico.
“It’s worth it,” she said. “These are people who I don’t have to spend any marketing money on to get their business each year.”
Baskets bring bookings
Gift baskets filled with items tied into the theme of a trip are something that Lauren Liebert of Ticket to Travel enjoys creating for her clients. For an investment of about $15 per basket, the return yields many times that amount in steady bookings, she told the audience.
“My clients get very excited about the baskets – they’re a big hit,” she said.
Clients bound for Disney World will get a basket brimming with Disney items, while Tuscany-bound clients will find olive oil, pasta and other Italian goodies tucked into theirs. Clients booked on an Abercrombie & Kent safari received a DVD of “The Lion King” and flashlights furnished by the supplier.
Buy in bulk
While she gets some products from suppliers, Liebert also combs a Dollar Store, Costco and other discount outlets for inexpensive items that tie in with her travel specialties.
“I usually buy in bulk, not always knowing what I will use the gifts for,” she said.
A couple of cautionary tips: keep a record of what you gave clients in their baskets, so you don’t repeat anything, and if it’s a group booking, make sure everyone in the group gets a basket.
Cruise documents and more
Along with the gift basket, Liebert presents her cruise clients with copies of their documents and luggage tags in a special folder.
“The cruise lines no longer do this for passengers, so I make this part of my gift to them,” she said.
Put your own spin on it
Swag bags and gift baskets are by no means the only ways that agents can dazzle clients with unexpected perks, Scott Koepf, vice president of sales for Avoya Travel, told the audience.
“You can do something different – find out what your own particular sizzle is,” he said. “I know a travel agent who will send a client a pizza on the first night they’re home from a trip, knowing they won’t want to cook.”
Another travel agent never sends clients gifts, but instead puts on an annual party with square dancing and barbeque for her repeat clients, Koepf added.
Buying a lottery ticket for a client is another option, a member of the audience chimed in, saying, “I tell them I hope they win – and then come back to me.”