I’ve always been a big Disney World fan and have been taking my kids there every other year from the time they could talk. I’m also someone who knows the value of research, having been in the travel business for over twenty-five years.
So, from the very first moment we contemplated our trip to Disney, I started reading the inside tips on how to get the most out of our experience, paying special attention to the little “nuggets” of information that would take our vacation to the next level and save us time and money in the process.
Things like where to stand to see the Illuminations fireworks show at Epcot minus the crowd, or what day and time to call to reserve the Princess breakfast at the Castle so my daughter would get to share a special moment with Cinderella, quickly transformed us from ordinary Disney vacationers to “the ones in the know.”
Back then, despite being a busy mother of three, I had the time and the expertise to gather this valuable information on my own.
Fast forward to today. My kids are teenagers, my husband and I both work, and life is just a little more hectic. However, we still want to make memories and travel more than ever before, which means we couldn’t be more grateful for our travel advisor.
Sure, my husband and I are perfectly capable of booking our own travel online, probably more so than the average person. But we choose not to, because we would surely be forfeiting the knowledge that our travel advisor brings to the table to enhance our vacation experience more than even we, self-proclaimed travel enthusiasts, could have imagined.
And tell me, what traveler doesn’t deserve to benefit from such expertise?
From travel advisors to travel heroes
For the same amount of investment (and often less) and no time on your part, a travel advisor can take an otherwise ordinary experience and transform it with their hints, tips and secret suggestions into the vacation of a lifetime – adding value that the client didn’t even know existed.
Be it uncovering a secret menu or an off-the-beaten path restaurant or finding that never-crowded parking spot at the airport, travel advisors are the facilitators when it comes to maximizing your time and money when you travel.
Travel Market Report spoke to a number of travel advisors who demonstrate their priceless value to their clients every day – elevating their status from travel advisor to travel hero. Here are some of their amazing stories, and even some of their secret tips.
Creating special moments
Chip Barker, the owner of Oceans and Lands Custom Travel Planners, has one goal in mind when he’s working with his clients, and that is to “create special moments.”
One of the ways he does this is by taking the time to research and share some undisclosed information on how to gain special perks at Kimpton Hotels. You see, Kimpton has a social share password that the average traveler would not have knowledge of. But, if you are a client of Barker’s, you just might be privy to it.
This is how it works: “Kimpton quietly puts out a secret password seasonally, and if your clients know it when they check in, they will get an extra treat or special amenity to enhance their stay. The hotel doesn’t ask you for it. You have to be a Kimpton follower on Twitter or Instagram, and you have to tell them what it is,” said Barker.
The password has unlocked numerous amenities for his clients, with everything from three days of valet parking (at $30 per day, that’s a $90 value), brunch for two, or even a bottle of whiskey with a hot carafe of homemade hot cider and Christmas cookies during the holidays.
“My clients come to me for my expertise, and they are busy folks,” Barker said. “They don’t have time to stalk social media like I do. This is just a little thing that I do that creates a memory for them. I also always make sure there is a name my clients can drop at a hotel, and I always let a staffer know they are coming.”
Barker also makes it a point to let his clients know when free happy hours are offered, saying, “I want to make sure they don’t miss it, and they get every free perk they can!”
A personal touch the internet can’t provide
Ann Petronio, owner of Annie’s Escapes in Rhode Island, says her high-repeat clientele are a product of the personal touch she prides herself in delivering. When a client books a trip with Petronio, she begins reaching out to them once a month, every month, until departure day. This includes emailing them destination reports, objective hotel reviews from a site she subscribes to (that isn’t Trip Advisor), and restaurant suggestions, to name just a few.
But, perhaps Ann’s favorite story of how she adds value occurred at the holidays last year. Her loyal clients of ten years, who are now empty nesters, were, as she describes it, a “little blue” about not spending Christmas with their loved ones. They decided to book a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico instead of staying home, but not without some trepidation about how this new and unfamiliar tradition would unfold.
That was when Petronio knew she needed to make sure they were in good hands. “I reached out to the hotel and explained that they were blue about being alone for Christmas and asked if they could do something special for them. When her clients checked in, they had a beautiful tree waiting for them in their room, and the housekeeping staff had brought in their own ornaments and decorated it for them. My clients were overwhelmed, and it made their whole holiday. They were sending me pictures. And guess what? They didn’t even charge them! I think the message is that the personal touch and the way we care about our clients is what sets us apart. They’re never going to get that from the internet.”
Insider perks that lead to referrals
Michelle Cartwright, owner of Destinations by Design, has been in business for six years. Her mantra is quality over quantity. In other words, she’s not looking to book mass groups, but rather, she’s seeking to satisfy the clients she already has and hopes they continue to refer her.
“I’m really big on customer experience. Customer service has a negative connotation. I care about my clients and I treat them like family. Oh, and by the way, I love my family.”
And being a “family member” to Cartwright has its advantages, especially when it comes to cruise bookings. Cartwright has spent years securing knowledge on how her clients can cruise better – so, as she puts it, they don’t have to. “It’s a fun little way for me to say I know my ships.”
For example, Cartwright has a special secret inside stateroom on Royal Caribbean that she reserves for her clients who are on a budget. “The window overlooks the Royal Pavilion, right out at Ben & Jerry’s cow’s butt! The view is a little obstructed, but you get inside perks like free ice cream every day and concierge access, in return.”
She also has the inside scoop on which family oceanview rooms on Royal are larger (but the same price) than regular family staterooms – purely because of their location and design.
“Before I started in the travel business, I was obsessed with learning about cruising, and I retained all sorts of tips that I learned. It takes a lot of time and energy to do what we do, and I’ve already done the homework, so why should they? You can’t Google this information and you can’t even call the cruise lines and ask for the best staterooms. They don’t know. I selectively place my clients in the best possible areas for their needs, and I love helping them.”
Is it any wonder that Cartwright’s clients are extremely loyal and that all of her business is by referral?
By divulging their best-kept secrets, these travel advisors are proclaiming their value and keeping their clients wondering what else they might have up their sleeve.
Have you considered how giving your clients and industry partners a heads-up can also give you a leg-up in business?
FROM THE SPONSOR: At Travel Planners International, you’re more than just a travel advisor. You’re a small business owner who is curating experiences that have an impact on the people you serve. For the last 30 years, we’ve believed in, guided, and championed the small business owner – and we have no intention of stopping. So, along with competitive commission plans, profit-generating marketing programs, and access to cutting-edge technology, we give emerging entrepreneurs the tools, guidance, and confidence to be successful and to harness their entrepreneurial spirit. Plus, with our #BetheCurator campaign and Tourism Cares, our 2019 Signature Charity, we’re elevating our 3,750-plus community of agents to a platform where they can truly change the world around them. But, don’t just take our word for it. Visit travelplannersinternational.com and let’s get you where you want to be.