6 Ways to Add a Touch of Serendipity to Your Clients’ Travels
by Steve Gillick, CTM /

The following is the latest in a series of guest columns on selling leisure travel by the founder of Talking Travel.

The word serendipity is derived from a fable about three princes from the land of Serendip (present-day Sri Lanka) and their travel exploits. Today we use the term to describe something unexpected that adds pleasure or value to an experience.

An example was my visit to Pisac, a market town in Peru. My companions and I had no knowledge of the annual Virgen del Carmen Festival before we arrived. Happily, and unexpectedly, we encountered singing, dancing, colorful costumes, festive foods and extremely welcoming people – all of which made the day stand out in our memories.

While serendipity usually refers to something unplanned, travel professionals can create the fertile ground that allows serendipity to blossom for their clients.  

Here are six ways to add a touch of serendipity to your clients’ travels.

1.    Upgrade the experience. For special clients or special occasions, use your supplier connections to arrange upgrades for air travel, cruise ship and resort accommodations. Counsel other clients on the benefits and value of paying for an upgrade. When the client experiences how that upgrade contributed to their relaxation and enjoyment, it will feel serendipitous.

2.    Open new doors. Suggest new destinations to clients who seem ready to add excitement to their travels or who are in a rut. Switch-selling involves persuading clients who, for example, always vacation on the same island and sending them to another island or to a part of the world the client had never considered. Serendipity comes in the form of discovering new cultures, foods and activities; this will lead clients to wonder what else they might discover on future vacations.

3.    Differentiate accommodations. Keeping tabs on the newest hotel features can help you create serendipity for your clients. Hotels can be mainstream, specialized, boutique, rustic, private, luxury, lifestyle, experiential or techno. Knowing the nuances that differentiate one hotel or resort from another will let you exceed clients’ expectations in terms of comfort, location, practicality, amenities, ambience or simply peace-of-mind.

4.    Synchronize with special events. Researching festivals and special events that coincide with your clients travels also will allow you to make suggestions that add serendipity to the experience. Most tourist boards can provide a list of such events. While some clients may prefer to avoid the crowds, others will be open to altering their timing and itineraries accordingly.

Example: When I was in Ubud in Bali, there was a once-in-a-lifetime royal funeral ceremony taking place. Thousands of Indonesians and tourists descended on the small town to watch. Unbeknownst to me, my guide had arranged for two balcony seats overlooking the ceremonial parade route. Witnessing that historic event was a defining moment in my travels.

5.    Cater to special interests. Interview clients to find out if their travels are motivated by a specific interest such as bird watching, shopping or sports. Then find ways to satisfy clients’ niche interests every time they book with you – and make it a surprise that you announce in your welcome letter or email. Example: “Glad you arrived safely to Havana. I know you love local music, so tomorrow I’ve reserved a table for two at the Factoria in Plaza Vieja, where you’ll enjoy live outdoor music with your lunch. I’ve been there and I know you’ll love it.”

6.    Call in supplier favors. Suppliers often have access to local information not found in GDSs, guidebooks or even on Google; they can help fulfill a client’s requests, even the strange ones. Want to ride a horse in Mongolia or a water buffalo in Vietnam?  No problem. Want to rent a yacht in Corsica or view the land forms in Cappadocia from a hot air balloon? This too can be done. Fulfilling even one of your client’s dreams or wishes creates serendipity.

Serendipity may have its roots in a fable, but you can make the concept real for your clients by using your imagination, contacts and experience to create unexpected surprises.

This will make them feel great. It will make you feel great. And it will make them feel great about you!

Travel educator Steve Gillick conducts sales and marketing training for agents via his consultancy Talking Travel. Contact Steve at steve@talkingtravel.ca.

While serendipity usually refers to something unplanned, travel professionals can create the fertile ground that allows serendipity to blossom for their clients.  

Steve Gillick, CTM, Talking Travel