Travel MarketPlace celebrated its second year in Vancouver as it began Wednesday, bringing travel agents and suppliers together for two days of networking and personal development.
More than 250 travel agents, 30 speakers, and 50 exhibitors arrived at the JW Marriott Vancouver to attend the educational and professional event.
To kick things off, Travel Market Report’s Executive Director of Canada Geraldine Ree discussed how advisors can achieve their best year yet in 2019. “Creating a big change is never one thing,” she told the audience. “It’s usually a series of things that happen together to create a shift, and people who make a shift need to go through a breakthrough first.”
In order to push through this wall and achieve a breakthrough, discover what your purpose is beyond your passion for travel, she recommended. “What’s unique about your purpose is you can do it over and over again and never get bored. The tough stuff doesn’t matter because you know this is what you are meant to do.”
Ree continued with saying, “Your purpose it meant to serve someone – stop trying to be all things to all people.” After that, you’re ready to take the next step, and “there is no better time to push through that resistance than right now.”
Lens on luxury
To help travel advisors further grow their businesses this year, Chris Austin, Seabourn’s SVP global sales & marketing, focused on how to keep an affluent client once you’ve found them.
“The definition of luxury is not the same as it was five years ago, and it evolves over time,” Austin said, which is now defined by something new, curated, and bespoke. “It’s defined more by consumer admiration and passions, and therefore is not static and is continuously evolving.”
The new luxury, he continued, is about access. The affluent and wealthy want access into places and events, either before others or exclusively altogether, such as paying top prices for entry into the Sistine Chapel before the public arrives.
As the middle class is growing exponentially, he said, “Luxury is now far more attainable to so many people, which is great news for us, because they want to experience that through travel.”
To earn their loyalty, Austin recommended that travel advisors should always take one extra step to show value through service. Celebratory travel, for example, can unlock an opportunity to plan a luxury trip, so start the conversation and plan early. Deepening that relationship will ensure they remain loyal.
In the cruise sector, 28 million people will cruise this year, while 1.5 billion will take a vacation — that’s how big the opportunity is. Austin said that can be applied across the board in the travel industry, from tour operators to hotels to insurance.
Social media insights
In a panel discussion led by Sandra McLemore, a well-known travel industry expert and host, executives discussed what is working and what is not working for travel agents in social media.
Close to 1,000 agents in both the U.S. and Canada responded to a survey, which you can find here, and 90 percent of those said social media is essential to their marketing plan.
McLemore said all of the agents who sold at least $25,000 from social media, all had something in common, including having a formal plan for their social media efforts. “Social media has become a part of everyday life for many of the generations and it’s important to have an integrated marketing plan that makes one of those channels part of that plan.”
Furthermore, having an overall marketing plan, said Sonia Agle, director of global trade marketing for Silversea Cruises, will allow you to define what goals you are trying to accomplish from a business standpoint. Planning will ensure posts complement each other, with seamless integration across all platforms.
“Tailor the content to the platform. Twitter is good for updates; Instagram is easy-to-see-at-a-glance videos and clips content; Facebook is for a seasoned traveler,” said Agle.
When it comes to posts, “Make sure it’s relevant to your business, and always be thoughtful. You have to be sure it’s a message that aligns with the brand you’re representing,” said Lisa Connell, director of sales for Royal Caribbean.
Hashtags can also be a useful tool, to drive your message and expand visibility.
Another tool to utilize is analytics, said Jennifer Barker, regional marketing manager, Canada, for Celebrity Cruises. Something you can use with Facebook is a pixel that is a code you can embed on your website and you can track who is making bookings from your posts.
There are a lot of metrics and analytics you can look at. Make sure you have your page set to a business, which will allow you to access more metrics.
If you’re really lost, it may be useful to invest a small amount into hiring someone who knows their way around. Connell said getting that kind of assistance and support from an expert can make a huge difference in your business in six months to a year.
All three of the social media panelists highlighted the fact that travel advisors should consider taking advantage of supplier content, which includes rich videos and aspiration pictures that cost you nothing, but can elevate your social media efforts