Travel advisors have had to tap into their creativity to manage the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, coming up with new and fun ways to connect and engage with their clients while there has been a lull in new bookings.
Linda de Sosa, owner of Bucketlist Travel Consulting, an independent travel consultant affiliated with Travel Experts, has created her own “QuaranTour,” a unique weekly e-mail for her clients during the COVID-19 lockdown.
De Sosa took her clients to different destinations over seven weeks through the tour, which included virtual views of the destination, recipes to cook, language lessons, book lists, and music to make the destination come alive. The virtual QuaranTour visited U.S. National Parks, Spain, Kenya, Thailand, Australia, Antarctica, and Peru.
“I wanted to keep in touch with my clients so they knew I would be here whenever COVID ended,” de Sosa told Travel Market Report. “I had been seeing all these different elements like recipes and virtual tours, and had been sending them out in a weekly email. It felt haphazard though, so I decided to put together a tour so it felt more like a trip. I started in the U.S. because I knew people would start traveling close to home, and then started working my way around the world.”
They also exemplified the detail that de Sosa put into her itineraries, where she provides lots of reading and video resources.
“I am very close with my clients, some of whom I have worked with for 20 years. This allowed them to know how I was managing and vice versa during the pandemic,” she said.
De Sosa said she got “a great reaction” from clients, adding that it wasn’t designed to get bookings but just to let clients know she’s thinking of them. “Each week different clients viewing the QuaranTour sent their appreciation.”
De Sosa emailed clients asking for them where they wanted to travel in 2021-22 and was overwhelmed by the immediate response. “I sent them the free version of Wanderlist trip to start planning. I had already decided to have bags made and deliver info on how my website could work for them, created an intro to me with a business card for them to distribute to friends.”
Some of her clients are starting to travel domestically to Utah parks, the biltmore, and the like, she said but any many advisors know, those are “not big money makers.” A few of her clients have already booked tours and cruises for next year, “but most everyone is in a wait and see mode, they seem afraid to get stuck somewhere,” she said.
For fellow advisors, de Sosa recommends getting creative and engaging your clients anyway you can. “They want to travel and are just as frustrated as you.”
De Sosa also created a new website and publicized it via social media. “My goal is to get people booking through the website and then working with more upscale clients to customize trips,” she said.
“When it became apparent this wasn’t going to be short, I decided to buckle down and create my website that I had envisioned for several years, but never got around to doing. Then I learned about monetizing it using Amazon.”
De Sosa said the shutdown has been very hard as she’s used to traveling about 25% of the year, and has traveled to 150 countries, all 50 states and seven continents, and has taken 38 cruises on rivers and oceans.
One of most difficult things right now for many advisors is not having commissions come in as clients postpone travel. Don’t be afraid to look for other sources of income. De Sosa is developing a travel shop and is “exploring creative ways of getting money upfront from clients for cruises sold next year.”
In addition to her new marketing endeavors, she’s been spending the time taking language learning lessons in German. (Sept. 29 marked her 212th day in a row!) She will be venturing out for the first time Oct. 15 to go to Kenya to visit my granddaughter, who is 2, and will be posting a journal of the experience to let others see it is possible to travel.
“All this sounds creative, fun, and rosy, but I’ve had some serious issues during the shutdown too. I decided I was never going to have another 2-3 months off travel,” de Sosa said.
“When I became critically ill at age 36, I decided that the most important thing in my life, besides my family, was my passion for travel. I gave up climbing the corporate ladder and decided to spend full time creating travel experiences for myself and others.
“My passion is travel. That is what lights up my eyes. I use it to help color in my future. Experiential travel lets me feel. Themed travel lets me learn. Let me help you color in your future dreams and fill your senses with the world around you.”