2020 was shaping up to be a great year for travel—until it wasn’t. Many travel consultants spent much of the spring months canceling and rebooking clients or spending long hours on hold with suppliers navigating cancellation and refund policies, with few new bookings coming in of any stripe.
Once the flurry of cancellations subsided, they were replaced by a more ominous sound—silence. Periods of downtime are common, even during normal booking seasons, and travel consultants are adept at filling them. There’s always another destination specialist course to take or more files to organize.
But how can a travel consultant keep clients engaged when nobody is booking? Travel may be curtailed for the moment, but travel consultants remain thought leaders and primary sources for travel news and insights in their clients’ minds. Travel will certainly rebound, and when it does, many agents will have certainly continued to nurture and develop client relationships during the down period.
It’s worth remembering that the objective isn’t to generate new bookings; it’s simply to maintain an active relationship with clients. Talk about travel as a passion, even if it’s not always an immediate business opportunity.
Here are a couple of ideas for keeping clients engaged, even when there are no cruises to confirm or tours to arrange.
Put those destination specialist courses to work for clients. Host seminars in person or via teleconferencing systems to keep clients in the loop and entertained with inspirations of future travel opportunities. Seminars can be grouped by destination or theme, and agents can keep records on clients that attend so that when reopening news for the destination comes along, that client list is a quick phone call or e-mail blast away.
Although limited during the pandemic, agents can host virtual or socially distanced social hours to keep clients engaged. After all, a social group of clients already has much in common: they’re travelers, and they all have the same travel consultant. Giving clients a forum for talking about their travels provides a social outlet for them, and virtually free advertising for the agent (aside perhaps from the cost of some social hour snacks and drinks).
Social hours are also an accessible forum for clients to bring up small questions they might have about travel or destination availability that might not otherwise warrant a phone call or e-mail by themselves. They’re a good opportunity for “while I have you” type inquiries.
This is the ongoing, virtual version of the social hour. Travel consultants can use social media platforms to share stories on destination reopening dates, traveler testimonials from those still traveling, and inspirational photos and journals from other clients (with their permission, of course).
Consistently sharing content on social media reminds clients (many of whom have free time to browse social media since they’re not traveling) that travel consultants are still out there with their minds on travel; ready to book their travels once they’re ready. A client might respond with interest to a luscious photo of a Caribbean resort or a post from a client who took a rail journey in Southeast Asia, and that’s a conversation starter.
Many travel consultants should already have robust e-mail lists, and many have long maintained periodic newsletters for clients. In the pandemic environment, many clients may appreciate a curated roundup of the latest travel news as a supplement or alternative to social media posts.
Travel consultants can also use newsletters to share testimonials from other clients who have been traveling, as well as reminders on international or state travel requirements for locales that are requiring negative virus tests for entry.
However agents prefer to keep in touch with clients, maintaining good relationships helps fill the time when bookings are sparse, and builds on trust that will keep travelers returning once travel demand returns.
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