TORONTO-- Wellness travel professionals at the second annual Well-Being Travel Symposium, advised travel agents to specialize in the areas of wellness travel they are most passionate about as a way to carve out a niche in the rapidly growing health and wellness travel segment.
During the sold-out conference, an Ask the Experts - Selling Wellness Travel panel, Well-Being travel specialists drew a clear connection between their personal narratives and the pleasures of selling wellness travel.
The conference is sponsored by Well-Being Travel, a leading marketing organization focused on educating agents on wellness travel, and Travel Market Report. Well-Being Travel offers a Well-Being Travel Specialist program in conjunction with The Travel Institute.
Pick a niche
“I came to wellness because of my own personal journey,” said Melissa Bruno, owner of Invigorate Travel in Wayne, N.J. “What a better way to reach clients than to share your own personal experiences with them.”
Agents should look to specialize in specific niches of wellness instead of aiming to be a generalist and appeal to a wider swath of clients.
“Pick one or two domains in wellness and truly become the expert in those areas,” said Bruno. “When you become an expert in those domains, the business will come to you.”
The wellness client
According to the specialists, the average wellness travel client is a woman above the age of 40 with an interest in health, fitness and adventure.
“My clients are mostly baby boomers and people with an established career who want to improve themselves and their lifestyles,” said Baiba Stalidzane, owner of Indigo Breeze, a wellness travel agency in Dana Point, Calif.
“The people who already have the wellness lifestyle want to have new experiences in different destinations that enable their healthy lifestyle.”
Other panelists said their clientele is skewing younger, as more and more young people are adopting a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve had conversations with clients in their 30s,” said Jeri Donavan, founder of Lincoln, Calif.-based Well Traveled. “Women are especially interested in group fitness travel and yoga retreats.”
And men are now interested in vacations focused on sports like biking, golfing and more.
“We have a lot of male customers on the corporate level, and their goal is to get away from their [board room] tables and let off some steam,” said Stalidzane
How to specialize
Agents should look for opportunities in their community to build relationships with fitness-based groups like gyms, golf courses and athletic clubs.
“Go out to nearby companies and groups like sport clubs and yoga studios; try to craft a partnership and involve one community organization which can bring many clients to you,” said Bruno.
“Also in your local community, try to participate in some events so you can be visible and even try to sponsor an event involving wellness.”
Keeping it simple for clients can help attract those who have never tried a wellness trip before, according to the experts. Dial it down to specific types of experiences that highlight a destination’s authenticity, they said.
“If you go into too much detail, the client can get lost,” said Donavan. “Know your clients and get personal with them. Know their needs and habits to become like an invisible family member for them.”
To fee or not to fee
All of the panelists encouraged agents to charge a fee for their services, especially since many wellness trips require extensive planning and outreach to suppliers.
Bruno, for instance, charges fees on a sliding scale from $75 up to $250 for extremely complicated bookings.
“I’ve never had a client ever come back and say anything about my fee because I discuss it in the beginning during our qualifying process,” she said.
“It’s a planning fee whether they book or not; it took me over a year to gain the strength and courage to put it into place.”