Over 200 professional travel agents visited Paris this past weekend, and Travel Market Report estimates the group may have produced exposure to as many as 400,000 consumers, with the goal of getting them to consider a trip to the French capital.
As exclusively reported last week, many are there as part of Virtuoso’s 12th Annual Chairman’s Recognition Event, which was announced a day before the Bataclan terrorist attacks last year. The group decided to stay firm with its plans, and with tourism to Europe suffering, pros are taking the approach that by showing customers the joys of being in Paris, they can encourage more customers to take advantage of the shorter lines and more opportunities to arrange and access VIP events for their customers.
Mark Johnstone of Sanborn’s Travel Service posted pictures of the spectacular holiday decorations at Four Seasons George V and an exclusive tasting in the hotel’s wine cellar drawing multiple responses such as “beautiful” and “wow.”
Joanne Scully of Largay Travel who was there separately posted to her Facebook page, “Is there a thing more beautiful than Paris in the rain. I went out on the balcony and saw this glittering jewel.” It was a snapshot of the Eiffel Tower glittering in the distance.
Scully told TMR, “Clients see that I am here, and that is helpful as I am updating my offerings of hotels in my Paris 'portfolio', so they know that I am constantly vetting rooms for them. I don't think Paris needs to be 'sold.’ Paris will always be beautiful and alluring to people, and my clients aren't afraid to come here.”
Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch posted pictures of an exclusive tour through Louis Vuitton’s flagship store on Avenue Montaigne, noting photos weren’t permitted in the private apartment above the store where the agents also visited. Still, the pictures he could show were sure to lure fans of the French leather goods maker, which presents one-of-a-kind watches and high jewelry at this location. Normally, there would be long waiting lines just to get into the store.
At the same time Dorchester Collection COO Francois Delahaye enabled Valerie Wilson of Valerie Wilson Travel to show her customers photos from a VIP kitchen tour at Alain Ducasse in the Plaza Athenee. Agents tell TMR that with fewer crowds, suppliers are trying to provide more experiences they might normally not offer during peak demand.
Huffman Travel’s Tony Huffman tempted his clients with pictures of a gourmet dinner at Le Reserve.
He also posted pictures of an “amazing private dinner with Alain Ducasse at Versailles” held at the chef’s Ore Restaurant.
Strong Travel’s Nancy Strong posted pictures of herself on stage at Moulin Rouge, before jumping on a helicopter for a private tour and lunch at the headquarters of famous champagne maker Krug in Reims.
In trying to estimate the impact of the travel advisors using social media to tempt their clients, if the 200 professionals each posted 10 pictures to two social media sites, and each picture on each site was seen by 100 clients, it would represent some 400,000 potential impressions to travelers who were exposed to tantalizing images of why they should visit Paris now.
Many of the posts included the hash tag #BoundariesDivideTravelUnites. Earlier this year, Air France estimated it had lost $130 million in revenue due to the attacks. In 2015, 3.6 million Americans visited France, so by using social media to market Paris to several hundred thousand travelers who already trust their recommendations, the savvy travel pros may have helped give France the boost it is looking for.
Evelyne Gaudin, an advisor with en Route Travel who shared Travel Market Report’s story from last week wrote in her post, “I applaud Matthew Upchurch, Albert Herrera, Karen Goldberg and the Virtuoso family for their dedication to bring people together. Travel is powerful that way. It opens minds and helps develop respect and tolerance…”