When travel, as a whole, is facing uncertain times — whether it’s political turmoil, a virus scare, Mother Nature, or other factors — travel advisors are in the enviable position of having a huge repertoire of travel options to offer their clients and also to satisfy those “points of passion.”
A travel advisor can turn a travel wish (“We really wanted to clamor over the ruins of Angkor Wat but … ”) into an alternate eye-opening surprise (“Our travel advisor recommended Honduras. We visited Copán Ruinas for a few days and fell in love with the town, the people, the food, the shopping and the amazing pre-Columbian ruins.”).
“Points of passion” is a marketing term that relates to special interest travel (aka niche market travel), but it hones in on the very reasons why people travel in both the overt sense (“All I want is a beach and a beer.”) and in the subliminal sense (Those who love the beach but are really seafood junkies at heart. To them, beaches mean inhaling the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean: fishing boats, local markets, and the clatter of small kitchens preparing scrumptious seafood dishes).
Those points of passion are the true motivators for travel, and when they are experienced on a vacation, they turn a great time into an incredibly memorable interaction with the destination.
I think of my own interest in collecting masks. On a trip to Bali, a super friendly taxi driver ended up being our local guide for several days. When I mentioned the word “mask,” he went into action! We drove along on a rough side road, parked the car in a field, walked down a driveway, around a corner and into a farm-like courtyard where we were greeting by a family. The grandmother and mother were doing household chores as the father, a master mask-maker, sat cross-legged and barefoot on a concrete deck, chipping away at a block of wood. For over an hour, we watched, asked questions, chatted with the family, smiled and laughed together, practiced gluing eyebrows on one of the masks, posed for photos, and even bought a few masks to take home. We left with feelings of exhilaration that can only be experienced when the endorphins in your brain are stimulated and you feel happy, blissful, content, euphoric and “wow.”
Here are five ways that travel advisors can satisfy their clients’ points of passion.
Determine your clients’ points of passion. This is where interviewing comes into play: Ask new clients about their likes, dislikes and secret dreams; and ask current clients lots of questions when they return from a vacation — what was great, not so great, what was the happiest moment, and what would they want to repeat.
And don’t forget those silver bullet questions — the ones that go right to the heart of the matter: “If you could wave a magic wand and go anywhere or do anything you wanted, where would you go and what would you do?”
Travel photos can be very revealing! If a client offers to show you some, don’t groan (at least not in public), but look at it as part of your client research. An album (or cell phone) filled with selfies, food, drinking, water activities, nature, crazy props, puppies, sports, fashion, art, etc., will often tell you more about your client’s points of passion than a personal talk will unearth.
3. Comfort zone
For clients who are upset that they have to put their travel plans on hold due to global uncertainty, you can direct them to their own back yard. Staycations (staying fairly close to home) have taken on a more expansive meaning over the past few years to include not only all of the U.S. and Canada, but also the Caribbean, Mexico, and even Central and South America.
A client who is looking for a hiking adventure, cultural immersion, a foodie fix or sheer relaxation, can easily have their needs fulfilled by staying within their comfort zone, through the suggestions of a travel advisor who has kept up to date with the daily travel news.
Like a fine piece of jewellery, art work, antique, or rare bottle of wine, travel advisors, too, have provenance. The word usually refers to a record of ownership, from the point of creation (e.g., an artist’s studio) up to the present time. Provenance helps to determine both authenticity and value.
And so it goes with travel advisors, where provenance relates to everything they have done over the years to establish and advance their careers, from early travel experiences to travel school or apprenticeships — all the fam trips, conferences, client interactions, supplier relationships, honors, and network of peers and experts.
And this all comes into play when you determine a client’s points of passion. You may be in a position to immediately respond with a number of suggested destinations and activities, or you may rely on your collective experience to contact “those in the know” who can assist. Got a client who loves ballet or baseball? Someone who collects spoons or sightings of Spoonbills? A couple who loves scuba or snorkeling or clamming? You, with your experience and list of valuable contacts, can respond in kind, matching your answers to both the client’s concerns about travel, as well as their points of passion.
5. Travel, I must
Forgive my lack of footnotes, but it’s been pretty well determined that many people consider travel to be essential to their well-being and peace of mind. A quick weekend getaway is rejuvenating; a longer holiday can revitalize the mind, body, family/friend connections, and the need to escape from routine.
Years ago, a beer ad on a Toronto billboard proclaimed: “Live Vicariously Through Yourself,” which meant that you have the ability to keep reliving positive, energizing experiences that you, yourself, have experienced. And to some, this is the very goal of travel: Catering to those points of passion, even when uncertain times are upon us.
And the goal of a travel advisor in uncertain times is to maintain that aura of being a subliminal magnet for travelers. This means that travelers are drawn to you because of the quality of services you provide and the travel advice you offer (travel documentation, travel intelligence about the global situation, where to obtain information on travel medical matters, smart booking practices that include proper travel insurance, etc.)
But your magnetism also incorporates empathy for the need to travel (“Travel, I must!”) as well as knowledge, experience and research, which are the hallmarks of the value that you provide. In uncertain times, it’s your time to contact your clients with creative suggestions.