At a recent industry conference, we received name tags that included each person’s business title and company. One person to whom I was introduced, had “Influencer” listed as his title, but Isn’t everyone in the travel industry an influencer in one way or another? I thought that if the person was trying to make a statement, I could too, and perhaps at the next conference I would use “Disruptor” as my title, to indicate that I pose questions, listen to the answers, and discuss how to implement creative solutions.
But, then I saw more “influencers” throughout the evening and started to conceive an idea where, as part of a Travel Advisor’s provenance (all their background and training that combines to make them who they are in the industry), each individual is recognized not only as an Advisor but as a Global Travel Influencer; not only someone who’s been there and done it, but someone who knows how to translate their expertise into the information, excitement, and energy that leads others to embark on meaningful travel experiences.
Enhancing the title “Advisor” with the reality of being an “Influencer” might be just what it takes to re-evaluate, reconfigure and recharge your batteries in 2019. Here are some ideas on how you might do just that.
Influencing your clients
There is a customer service theory that you should always look for opportunities to contact your existing clients. This doesn’t translate into a constant stream of emails. What it does mean is that information that influences your clients to pursue their travel experiences should be communicated to them.
Your CRM database should have information about each client’s travel habits. This is, after all, why you interview clients in the first place. And the method of communicating should accord with your clients’ preferences (emails, texts, phone calls, mailed flyers, postcards, vlogs; or the good old newsletter, posted on your website or emailed from time to time to each client).
If you’re feeling uncertain about your photo, video or writing skills, there are travel media associations in Canada and the U.S. with members who specialize in these areas. You might also try to contact the travel and tourism department of the local college. Consider a newsletter in which you talk about your own travels, and also include the experiences of one or two clients. Photos, too? Of course. And most newsletter programs allow you to include videos. The news can include upcoming hot destinations as well as new or popular tour or cruise ideas. Consider a contest with a prize donated by a supplier, a tourist board, a local restaurant or bookstore.
And why do all this extra work? Simply put, in your role as an Influencer, you are, for the love of travel, spreading ideas to stimulate thoughts of “escape” and “vacation.” And the best way to start the process is to write 300-500 words about a trip you personally took (it could be a family/friend trip or a fam trip) and why you loved the destination, attractions, hotels, meals, activities, culture, people and the general ambiance of the destination. Welcome to the world of travel writing.
Influencing the senses
Travel marketers will often describe a destination or cruise as an experience that will appeal to the five senses. Normally, they leave it up to the individual to conjecture how the trip will cater to each sense: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting. But as an Influencer, you can go one step further. Put together a sheet or a website page entitled, “Get a Sense of What Travel is All About.” And then, with your brainstorming crew, identify specifically how each sense can be enhanced by a travel experience.
An example might be the sense of smell. When you disembark from the plane in Antigua, you’ll be overwhelmed by the scent of tropical flowers carried on the warm Caribbean breeze. It’s the best advertisement for the island with the clear message that you’ve arrived, and your vacation starts now. Caribbean smells include the refreshing scent of the ocean, the mouth-watering aroma emanating from tiny shacks grilling food, the bouquet from stunning red and pink hibiscus along the roadside, the fragrance of fresh air; and for many, the smell of freedom from your daily routine and grind.
Five more senses to influence
You can continue to develop how the other four senses will react to the client’s holiday choice. But keep in mind that in the world of travel, there are actually ten senses. The five that you don’t often think about include:
1. The sense of humor.
This is an important travel characteristic that allows you to calmly deal with traffic jams, lost luggage, snooty front desk clerks, and that endearing “mañana” attitude that prevails in many countries.
2. The sixth sense.
You know that tingling sensation you get when your brain tells you that things are just not right? It could be that the neighbourhood you’ve chosen to walk through at night isn’t safe, a dish on your plate is questionably fresh, or a taxi driver is being pushy about taking you to his brother’s souvenir store. When your sixth sense says “No, get me out of here!” you should probably listen.
3. Common sense.
How many times have you been advised, “Just use your common sense”? But, no one bothers to define what that really means. Everyone has their own standards.
As a Travel Advisor and Influencer, you can clarify how common sense can apply to different situations. In a hotel, common sense says to use the hotel safe and not to answer the door without checking who is knocking. On the street, common sense says to leave your bling at home and not to flash your cash. On the beach, common sense says not to store your money inside your shoe when you go for a dip. In the ocean, common sense says not to sign up for the shark cage experience when you don’t even know how to swim, let alone scuba dive. You can probably think of many more examples.
4. The sense of adventure.
This is the irresistible urge to do things differently while on vacation; try new activities (safely of course — use your common sense!), taste new foods, converse with the locals, and engage in that secret second lifestyle that caused you to take a holiday in the first place. Lifestyle number one is you in your hometown setting, bound by routine. Lifestyle number two is you on holiday with no commitments other than relaxation and enjoyment on your own terms.
5. The sense of travel.
More and more people are exposed to the benefits of travel every year. This is the addictive sense where the motto might as well be, “Once bitten, you never recuperate.” Influencers have been found guilty of spreading this to their clients through infectious enthusiasm.
Here we are in 2019. Will you dare to be different this year? You can provide travel advice but take it one step further and consider yourself to be a Global Travel Influencer. Share your sense of wonderment with the world, with your clients. It’s your destiny.