Seven Tips to Playing “Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt" with Your Clients

by Steve Gillick
Seven Tips to Playing “Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt" with Your Clients

Photo: Shutterstock.com


Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt (UTTH) is an exhilarating way of marketing travel to those clients who are looking for something different. It injects positivity and excitement into travel, and your clients will catch on immediately if you, the travel professional, exercise enthusiasm-by-example. 

For those unfamiliar with UTTH, it is a way of describing travel where every day of a vacation is filled with the opportunity for surprise, serendipity, sensations and serenity. It covers the gamut of travel from river cruising to adventure to all-inclusives to doing absolutely nothing…and loving it. 

Here are seven tips to playing Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt with your clients:

1. Roll the Dice.
Every board game starts off with the roll of the dice to see who goes first. But in UTTH, we want to avoid "rolling the dice," which has the connotation of not really knowing what you’re doing and gambling on the fact that unresearched advice and guesstimating situations will "probably" be OK. To play UTTH you need to celebrate the fact that you’re a trained travel professional with expertise and experience gained from working with clients, tour operators, suppliers, cruise companies and destinations. Clients depend on your objective advise and suggestions regarding all the possibilities available to them on their travels. You are not only the dream-generator but also the personal trip advisor, backed up by knowledge.

2. Define the Rewards.
Let’s face it. A treasure hunt seeks to uncover "the treasure." In UTTH, the treasure is defined by the client. Using those tried-and-true methods of asking questions, listening for key words, paying attention to body language, uncovering special travel (niche) interests, and determining needs, you will discover not only the travel rewards the client seeks (peace of mind, safety and security, great time for the family, second honeymoon, total relaxation, extreme adventure, foodie bliss, amazing scenery, etc.), but also how to draw the treasure map that will lead to those rewards.

3. Know the Players.
In order to wax enthusiastic about a travel destination or product, you have to know the players, their expectations, their budget and their past travel experiences. If you talk about serendipity (unexpected events that will most likely "wow" the traveler) to someone who is nervous about travel and safety and prefers a structured guided experience, then you are barking up the wrong tree. On the other hand, if you suggest a Canadian Yukon adventure to a couple who love the outdoors, big skies, small towns, friendly people and conversation, then they will come to see the proposed experience as a treasure trove of possibilities.

4. Rallying the Team.
Treasure hunts are inevitably more successful when a team of participants is involved. This allows for brainstorming, different perspectives and suggestions, group bonding for a common purpose, along with comfort and confidence for both the team and in this case, your clients.
 
Your team includes your computer files (or Rolodex) of valuable contacts who can provide accurate updates on destination situations (safety, what’s new, what’s closed, what’s crowded, and what‘s not so interesting) as well as those individuals who can work magic to accomplish what your client really wants to do (I want to ride a horse in Mongolia; pick tea leaves in Sri Lanka; track Lemurs in Madagascar; take a puppetry workshop in Prague). The team also includes all those travel professionals with whom you network at conferences and workshops, all of whom have divergent interests and expertise.
 
5. The Playing Field.
The entire planet is your board game or playing field. While a client may rebook their Caribbean vacation with you, at the same resort, for the 30th time in a row, it doesn’t mean you can’t entice them to explore other islands in the Caribbean (or elsewhere), and similar quality or more upscale resorts. As an investment in your clients’ travel-sustainability, the Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt concept is that there is so much more out there to experience and that if you, the travel professional, can open a client’s eyes and mind to expanding their horizons, then you may have reinvigorated their desire to travel for many more years, while at the same time, encouraging referrals (the client’s friends and family) to ask for similar creative suggestions.
 
6. Digging for the Treasure.
On a treasure hunt, after following the map and finding the X under which the treasure is buried, you take out your picks and shovels and start digging. On the Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt, the implements for arriving at the treasure include your willingness to research and investigate "what else" your clients could do or "where else" they could stay. This research is derived from talking with clients and peers, television programs (PBS, OLN, Discovery, HBO), movies (everything from "Lord of the Rings" to "Avatar"), seminars and webinars, the daily travel press, as well as travel articles in magazines and newspapers. It’s the real-life stuff you are after—what travelers have seen and experienced. And then figure out which of the travelers in your database would love to do something similar, and how you can make it happen.
 
7. Eureka!
Treasure hunts end when someone or the team finds the treasure. There are usually no consolation prizes for the other teams. However, in the Ultimate Travel Treasure Hunt, each individual traveler has their own concept of what the treasure is, and therefore there is no “one” winner. If anything, the work and effort you devoted to ensuring that one traveler found their treasure can be applied to all the other clients in your database.

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