Like a fine wine, a classic painting and a treasured antique, travel advisors are a reflection of their provenance; the chain of events, circumstances and experiences that made a career choice in travel a logical outcome. One might even use the word “inevitable” to describe how curiosity about destinations, different cultures, foods, drinks, customs, adventure opportunities, leisure practices and the need to get away, have led over 150,000 people in both the United States and Canada to embrace a career where they advise clients about travel possibilities: the best (fulfilling, convenient, efficient, time–saving, budget-conscious) way to access and explore the planet.
Such an addiction to travel does not stop. COVID-19 does not mean we go cold turkey on travel.
It means we pick up the pace.
While there is a physical pause in domestic and global travel, the active travel mind is still at work, dreaming, planning, upgrading, tasting, lying in a hammock or putting on trekking boots. The expression is that when one door closes, another opens. If travel bookings have halted, if you’ve been temporarily laid off, then harken back to your provenance—why you got into travel in the first place, and get busy planning on ways to stay in touch with your clients. And this has a double benefit. As you inspire your clients, you too find more ways to inspire yourself during these troublesome times.
Here are four of many, many inspirational ideas you can pursue.
1. Look at television in a different way
While this may be an opportunity to catch up on episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” or “Forged in Fire”, it’s also an opportunity to view nature specials, travel shows and pick up some new information. If you can obtain a listing of shows in advance, you could even send clients an e-blast to “Get away from the Covid-19 News for an hour and watch….”
I think of how I watched the now defunct Lonely Planet series back in 1999 just before a trip to Mongolia and everything that Ian Wright, the host, did on his trip to Mongolia, I wanted to do too. Drink fresh mare’s milk, attend the Naadam Festival, ride a horse, visit a Monastery, live in a ger (yurt), hang out with nomads, and eat Marmot. And I did! I remember making that list of quirky things to do while watching the show and then seeing how many I could cross off my ‘to do’ list. To this day, out of the 84 countries I’ve explored, Mongolia is still my Number One.
And to date myself just a bit, I used to give consumer talks on “Everything I learned about travel, I learned from watching I Love Lucy.” Lucy goes to Hollywood, California, to New Mexico and on the Staten Island Ferry in New York. Lucy goes to meet Ricky’s family in Cuba. Lucy takes a ship (and misses the departure) on her way to Europe. For years I thought that the only way to get the juice out of grapes was to stomp them in a big tub like Lucy did when she wanted to “absorb the local color in Italy.” Some of your clients may appreciate your personal short stories about television inspiration, and cause them to gather up their own memories and dreams of what to do once the world of travel returns to normal.
With hundreds of millions of subscribers around the world, Netflix is enjoying a surge in viewers who are now home-bound. Why not do the same as you did with television shows? Pick out your favourites or spend some time researching travel-related series or documentaries to watch, especially as they relate to special interest (niche) travel. Mexican cooking (I can’t wait to return to Puerto Vallarta to taste the incredible Marlin Tacos), birding, antiquing, nature, cruise ships, specific destinations, movies and series that have anything to do with a travel theme (whether it’s Indiana Jones in Kathmandu and Egypt, Lawrence in Arabia, Tom Ripley in Italy, Rick Blaine in Casablanca. the Hobbit in New Zealand, Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik or the beauty of National Parks in the United States and Canada).
Actually sitting down and reading a book is a luxury for many people during hectic work schedules, so now there is time to indulge! Put a list of “must reads” together and send it out to your clients. Some may relate to general destinations (travel books such as Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Rough Guides or Insight), and some may be actual accounts of adventures or discoveries in different countries. For my own interest in adventure, names such as Freya Stark, Wilfred Thesiger, and Ian Baker immediately come to mind. And as far as fiction that relates to travel, I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami as, after many visits to Japan, it’s comforting for me to identify with the places mentioned in his novels.
There’s no need to start researching books on your own. Guide books often have a literary reference section at the back—books that relate to the specific destination. You can also review book lists on the internet. You can be creative and convene a conference call with your agency (or host agency) peers and put together a list of favorite books. Or you can get more creative and instigate a dialogue with your clients and have them list their favorite books (and movies and songs and Netflix) that relate to travel. Stir up the imagination!
4. Travel stories
Inspire your clients by holding a travel story contest. Ask them about their favorite destination, their most challenging experience, their absolute favorite travel memory, the best meal they ever ate, the best three travel tips they every learned and five secrets that tour guides never told them about their favourite destination (s). You can limit the words (200-300 words), set a deadline for receiving the entries and a date when the winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd, Honourable Mentions etc.) will be announced. Prizes can range from being featured in the agency newsletter, to an arrangement for publication with your home town newspaper, to a local prize (dinner at X restaurant /a $25.00 gift certificate at X bookstore) or a supplier-donated prize.
These are just some inspirational ideas to keep your clients (and you and your travel advisor team) stoking the fires of enthusiasm for the travel opportunities that lay at the end of the tunnel.
While things look dark right now, you can play a major role in shining a light.