When early explorers boldly set out on their expeditions, they did not have the option of the luxurious state of travel that people enjoy today. Now we can venture to the ends of the Earth in comfort and style, relishing spectacular adventures to faraway destinations like Antarctica.
For travel advisors who do not regularly book this type of travel, it might seem like an intimidating task. But with the right training and support, any advisor can become a polar travel specialist. The rewards are hefty commissions and a high level of satisfaction in making their clients’ bucket list dreams come true. If you’re considering this niche, here’s what you need to know…
Why do people want to go to Antarctica?
First off, it is important to understand why people go to polar destinations. Is it the wildlife viewing that piques their curiosity, activities like sea kayaking, or their special interest in photography or science?
Sue Vincent, travel manager at Independent by Flight Centre, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said: “Antarctica appeals to people who are seeking a connection (or reconnection) to the Earth, through amazing and unique wildlife, spectacular scenery, cold fresh air, and to meet other like-minded people who love nature and who seek an outdoor adventure.”
Ann Valley, vacation travel consultant at Bayside Travel in Wisconsin, noted: “For most people, this is the last continent if they are attempting to visit all seven. For others, it is the desire to visit before global warming creates changes that will alter the experience.”
The best practice is to listen carefully to your clients’ travel wishes and desires, looking for clues that a polar trip might motivate and excite them.
What types of travelers make good prospects for polar adventures?
Experienced travelers who have a good amount of disposable income and a curious mindset, as well as a penchant for adventure and discovery, make good prospects for polar cruises and land adventures.
“It is an expensive trip and involves a lot of travel just to get to the embarkation point. So most clients are older and retired and they have the money and the time to spend on this type of trip,” said Valley. “They are usually craving the exploration of a destination that is popular but limited and available for only a few.”
But don’t confine your sales efforts only to older clientele, because younger travelers are increasingly interested in taking meaningful journeys to cold-weather places as well.
Shari Tucker, travel advisor at Halifax-based Love the Way You Travel, and a specialist in adventure and responsible tourism, explained: “While typically clientele for Antarctic trips are an older age demographic because retirees tend to have more time and money, you shouldn’t rule out people in their 30s and 40s. With so many remote jobs and flexible vacations these days, people in the core of their work life have more flexibility and often more disposable income than in the past. They also tend to have children later in life, or sometimes not at all, which means their spending and saving habits are very different from the trend 30-40 years ago.”
Consider these tips from Tucker when prospecting for the polar travel niche:
- Look for clients in your book of business who seek out different experiences, who don’t follow the guidebooks and who regularly talk about experiencing nature.
- Talk to your adventurous clients who say they never want to cruise about how expedition ‘cruising’ to Antarctica is completely different from your typical Mediterranean or Caribbean cruise.
- Look for clients who love cruising on small ships.
- Target your clients based on their interests rather than their age, including those in their 30s, solo female travelers, and retired couples.
What are the obstacles to selling polar adventures and how do you overcome them?
For some, the biggest obstacle is “the cold!” commented Valley. “When people hear polar, they automatically think so, so cold. But if you take the time to discuss how to prepare for your time on the continent, and go through the packing and clothing recommendations, it puts their mind at ease.”
For others, the cost of the trip can be a hurdle. “Price can certainly be a challenge in selling polar adventures. There’s really no such thing as a ‘cheap’ trip to Antarctica, nor should there be,” said Tucker.
Here are a few suggestions from Tucker about how she helps clients justify the cost, even though it may be double or triple that of their typical vacation:
- Talk about the once-in-a-lifetime experiences they will have, and how ten years from now it won’t be the same.
- Hone in on your client’s interests and match them to the right cruise or expedition company. If they are science-minded, find a ship that offers citizen science onboard. If they are amazing photographers, make sure there is a photography program onboard. If they are divers or kayakers, make sure you present companies that offer those options. The sale will become more about the experience and less about the price.
- Present options based on full price, and then if you find a discount or special, you look like a rock star. If you present based on the sale price first, clients will rarely want to pay more.
- If you’ve presented several options for companies and/or room categories and clients are waffling over the price, ask them what amenity or special inclusion they could do without. From there, you can either find a less inclusive option, or clients will realize that they have to pay the price tag for the trip they dream of.
- Give clients permission to spend money on amazing experiences for themselves. Sometimes clients just need to be reminded that they are worth it.
- Let them know that there are various payment options, and encourage them to take advantage of early booking specials or early payment offers.
What should you look for in a polar travel supplier partner?
With polar travel being such a specialty, one key to success is to build a relationship with a trusted and knowledgeable supplier. Look for a supplier that: knows Antarctica well and has local guides; respects and protects the environment and its wildlife; educates travelers; works with small groups; and offers excellent off-ship adventure activities.
Participate in training programs provided by the supplier and ask if they have a dedicated marine team representative that you can speak with to learn more. Take the time to educate yourself on the ins and outs of polar travel, including the ships, onboard and offboard experiences, optional activities, and booking terms and conditions.
Now that travel is picking up again, people are anxious to go and do all the things they couldn't do for the past two and a half years. They have the money to spend. There is a mindset and an urgency to go now to see and appreciate what we have, while we still have it. No one knows what the future holds, and people no longer want to wait until ‘someday’ to take their dream trips. As Vincent said, “This is a perfect time to consider those harder-to-reach destinations and make magic happen.”
FROM THE SPONSOR:
Intrepid Travel is a world leader in sustainable, experience-rich travel that has been taking travelers to discover the world's most amazing places for more than 30 years. Our mission is to create positive change through the joy of travel. We offer more than 1,150 trips on every continent, which are designed to truly experience local culture. Globally renowned as a leader in responsible travel, in 2018 as a carbon-neutral business, Intrepid became the world’s largest travel company to be certified B-Corp and is the only global tour operator with verified science-based carbon reduction targets. As a true seven-continent operator, this includes traveling to Antarctica, which has become a top bucket list destination for Intrepid travelers. Travel advisors can take part in specialist training, attend live events with polar experts, visit the Intrepid Polar Resource Hub once registered for the online booking portal, and speak with Intrepid Travel’s dedicated marine team via phone, live chat, or email for more.