The 1969 song “No Time,” by The Guess Who, included those haunting lyrics of, “Seasons change and so do I, you need not wonder why …” But, of course, we all wondered then, and probably still wonder now about the seasons and the changes that they bring to our routines.
There’s a “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry, Kramer and Newman have a discussion about the days of the week and ruminate about if each day has a specific ‘feel.’ Newman says that Tuesday has no feel; Monday, Friday and Sunday have a feel. And, for many people, the months and the seasons bring on very specific moods and memories.
I live in Toronto, where the Canadian National Exhibition opens in mid-August and closes on Labor Day. The “Ex” was always greeted with mixed feelings: it was a happy event for us as kids, but it also signalled the end of the summer and the start of a new school year. For those of us who did not relish the idea of returning to class and doing homework, the middle of August brought with it a measure of anxiety.
As we tend to be creatures of habit, the stress we may have felt when we were kids often follows into adulthood. And so, it is in the month of August that we face that six-letter word, “change.” While the word itself derives from Old French and Latin origins, the meaning of “to undergo alteration, to make or become different,” dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries, and that meaning hasn’t “changed” over the years.
Then again, perhaps we are affected more by the fear of change than of the actual change itself. And, if we really want to be objective, we need to analyze the changes that we think travel undergoes from season to season and how it affects us. Here are four observations in the hope of quelling any seasonal “change” anxiety.
1. A bird in the hand
For travel advisors, there used to be specific selling seasons associated with seasonal products to be sold. In the summer, you sold autumn getaways. In the fall, you sold the winter. In the winter, you sold the spring. And in the spring, you sold the summer.
But, with the growing product demand in key areas of travel, this model has been thrown out the window. Most cruise companies are currently selling 2019 and 2020 product. Special events — ranging from sports travel to theater packages to birding festivals — need to be booked at least a year in advance. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will require advance travel arrangements; as will the Passion Play in Oberammergau, held every 10 years, with 2020 representing the 42nd version.
2. Messing with travel patterns
For years now, travelers have not followed the old rules of designating one or two times during the year when they can enjoy an extended vacation. In fact, getting away itself has been re-configured to include:
- Both pre-planned and last-minute weekend escapes
- Extending routine business travel and conferences by a few days for some R&R
- Taking several one-week holidays that replace 2-to-3-week getaways, in order to accommodate hectic business or family schedules
- Taking month-long (or more) business/leisure breaks (“bleisure” is the official term), where the beach may be a few steps away, but aside from an outdoor bar and a few comfy lounge chairs, your palapa also houses a desk, laptop, internet connection and a cell phone charger
3. Seasons of the mind
Who said that a traveler has to seek warmth during the winter? That’s the classic stereotype, but today it’s more of an assumption — and we all know that in travel selling situations, assumptions can be quite misleading.
Part of qualifying the client is to ask straightforward questions about where they want to go, and then savvy travel advisors take one more step to ask why the client wants to go there, so they can support the client’s needs and goals regarding the trip.
A client who indulges in winter sports may very well savor a winter experience elsewhere, when it’s winter at home. Skiing and snowboarding vacations across the country are one option; winter sports overseas are another; while cooler temperatures in South America or Australia (their winter during our summer) can be a draw.
For others, it’s the idea of “the endless summer,” which harkens back to the 1966 movie of the same name where surfers engage in their lifestyle/sport 12 months of the year, searching for global surfing meccas. Many travelers these days regard seasons as artificial creations; they put the seasons on hold and just enjoy travel for travel’s sake.
4. The internet made me do it
Many of the social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., include posts about destinations and selfies that prove some engagement with the destination (Here’s me beside a Botero sculpture in Bogota); or activities (Here’s me patting a Yak in Tibet); or food and drink (Here’s me drinking Pinotage in Cape Town); or special interests (Here’s me at the Globe Museum in Vienna).
Just as travel bloggers show up at conferences with “influencer” as their title, so the internet itself is a great influencer when it comes to travel beyond the seasons of traditional travel. Impulsive travel no longer means getting on a flight with no specific plan of action in mind. Today, it means that the traveler is acting on a suggestion — either overt or subliminal — that it’s time to travel. And you, as the travel advisor, can be front-and-center in making the arrangements … quickly.
Travel advisor treasure hunt
For those who are getting stressed that it’s nearing the end of August, and to them, this means switching gears to sell “winter” travel, take a deep breath and relax. There’s nothing significant that you have to change.
You still need to master product knowledge and learn what’s new at the destinations you intend to sell. You still need to master selling skills that include qualifying your clients to understand what it is they want. And, you still need to be at the top of your game when it comes to customer relationship management to ensure that you are the first person the client contacts for either a traditional seasonal getaway or an untraditional and creative riff on their vacation plans that you will inevitably enjoy planning with the client. So, really the changes, that at one time may have induced anxiety, have been turned on their head and now induce positivity, enthusiasm and even a sense of fun.
Someone once described the career of travel advisor as similar to someone going on a treasure hunt. Every day, week, season, email, phone call and client interaction is different, and you never know what you will discover. Hmmm, change seems to be for the better, if you ask me!