Sometimes the best person to ask for help with solving a problem is someone else having – or who had – the same problem. At a peer-to-peer session at last week’s Travel Market Place East conference in Toronto, that’s exactly what the 200-plus travel advisors in attendance did.
Under the supervision of Ron Cates, a digital marketing guru, groups of three to seven travel advisors shared what their greatest challenges have been, as well as those that continue to plague them. More importantly, they shared tips, strategies and solutions for combatting these issues.
The vast majority of the problems advisors shared were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A few, like long wait times with suppliers, had advisors stymied.
Here’s what advisors shared.
Challenge: Getting clients to commit after all of the restrictions and delays and everything that’s been happening over the last few years.
Solution: “We feel than when we are confident, that helps our clients make decisions. We need to be up on the latest travel restrictions to make sure we know what we are talking about.”
Cates doubled down on their solution, encouraging advisors to embrace seeing themselves as experts, something that engenders confidence in clients. “Expert is a relative term. If you know more than they do, you are an expert to them. And trust me, you know a lot more than they do.”
Challenge: Restoring confidence in clients and in our business.
Solution: “Staying in contact with clients and doing things to show them we’re still alive and in business.”
Staying in front of clients has been especially critical, Cates responded. “Yes, there’s a lot of reluctant travelers out there. And it’s always very difficult in any industry, but especially this one to control the buying cycle. You can have promotions, but if they’re not ready to travel, they’re not ready to travel. But here’s what you can control: You can make sure that when they buy, they buy from you and that means getting in front of them on a regular basis… you’re showing off your expertise. You’re elevating yourself. And that way when they are ready to buy, they’re going to come to you.”
Challenge: People’s fear and their low confidence in travel.
Solution: “I am now doing escorted groups and I travel with them. And for some reason they like that. They like the ability to have me with them so that if something goes sideways they have somebody there to help them out. It’s helping a great deal with the confidence of consumers.
Challenge: Becoming rusty and forgetting how to do things that used to be almost second nature.
Solution: “I found that I had to do retraining and webinars to keep it fresh.”
Challenge: Long hold times with suppliers.
Solution: Generally a challenge without a solution, one advisor said he’s recently started using a cell phone app called Ooma. So long as he has Wi-Fi, he can make calls via the app to a supplier, while keeping his main line open so that clients can still call him. He mentioned that he uses some of his older phones to make multiple supplier calls so that one phone is on hold with an airline, while another is on hold with a tour company, while his main cell phone is still open to receive calls.