Travel advisors are resilient, as we’ve seen time and time again. But it’s more apparent now than ever as they work to overcome the difficulties that the entire travel industry is experiencing.
Some advisors have used this time to rethink their business strategies, while others have used it to reconnect with clients and develop a deeper relationship. Many of them used the downtime to learn via webinars or create new websites.
“I spent a great deal of time and energy staying in touch with my clients – sending them updates on happenings in the travel world as I received them. I think being in contact with them gave them more confidence in me and the suggestions I offer,” said Linda Kinsey, Custom Travel & Cruise, an affiliate of Travel Experts in Douglasville, Georgia.
Kinsey said another positive aspect has been rediscovering Facebook to drive interest. Custom Travel & Cruise began a ‘Steps along the Way’ series where each week highlighted one of its vacations showing beautiful pictures and sharing stories about the places agents have visited. “We have heard from so many people and have seen new clients and positive bookings from this,” she said.
For Susan Butler, The Travel Butler in Mooresville, North Carolina, a positive aspect has been expanding the types of bookings that clients come to her for – something she will continue to do going forward.
Butler features domestic destinations “to remind clients that I am knowledgeable about and can book those items too. Many think to call me for international trips but I knew a shift to domestic travel would mean shifting their focus.”
"Encouraging clients to book the easier things with me and not just their bigger trips has added up,” Butler said. “I know many advisors I spoke to didn't want to deal with two- to four-night staycations and things of that nature but all of these bookings have helped me stay afloat.”
She added that she typically books all my hotels directly despite the convenience and often higher commissions of booking through a wholesaler or tour operator. “I found this to be hugely beneficial to my clients when seeking reimbursement. Long term client retention by putting the client first and profit second has always served me well.”
Eileen Anderson, Journeys Afar in Raleigh, North Carolina said she has learned two big lessons during this time. “First, is it possible to develop new client relationships even during a downturn by using and expanding social and professional networks. Second, I’ve become 100% firm about getting research/planning fees in advance. If I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s pay myself first, especially given the uncertainty we’re all dealing with for the foreseeable future.”
“The positive in all this is that I have had time to talk with all my clients on multiple occasions and for the most part talk about the new trips for 2021 and 2022,” said Patti George, Groups by Design in Louisville, Kentucky. “I think the most important thing that I did was taking the time to listen to their questions and talking through their fears in a positive way.”
Throughout the difficulties and hardships that the industry has face over the past nine months, Butler said her best advice is to invest in the type of clients you desire to work with.
“Over time you will have a loyal client base that appreciates you as much as you appreciate them. I've found that if someone's main focus is cheapest price and not on value, they will most likely not find the value in my service and keeping that client happy with always be an uphill battle.
"Weeding out clients over time and only keeping the ones you truly enjoy working with makes transitioning in a time like this a lot easier. The clients that were a pain before will be a bigger pain when things go wrong. That may mean losing some sales but in the long run you will build a business working with clients who will be loyal and support you as mine have done during this pandemic."