As is the case with virtually all travel advisors, Susie Chau’s forecasted income deteriorated in a matter of weeks due to the coronavirus crisis.
Rather than focus on her losses, Chau, founder of Chicago-based Carpe Diem Traveler, began strategizing on ways to engage current and prospective clients with travel experiences.
“I wanted to figure out a way to serve people and bring some of the benefits and joys that travel can bring at this time, and really crack the code on figuring out the best pieces of travel,” she said. “And when I thought about it, the true core of travel is having experiences where you can learn and immerse yourself in another culture, try new things and have meaningful conversation with the people you are traveling with.”
The end result was a new venture, Virtual Voyages, which Chau unveiled in April. These virtual voyages transport travelers to cities around the world. “Each ‘voyage’ focuses on one city and contains cultural information on what makes the destination special,” she said.
In an announcement sent to her email list about the new venture, Chau said: “How can I serve the people that can no longer travel and fulfill that sense of adventure, inspiration, and joy that travel brings?
“I realized that oftentimes, the things I take away with me from a trip are the tiniest details…different ways of life that I had never considered. Learning about those aspects of the culture don’t require a plane ticket to test out.
“These are bite-sized guided journeys that will transform your home to a new city. Each guide is packed with activities to learn about the culture, traditional (but easy!) recipes, drink suggestions, movie recommendations, and fun facts about the place that can spur on a lively dinnertime conversation.”
As an example, the itinerary for “A Night in Rome” guide transports participants through a typical Italian evening, including pre-dinner activities, three recipes and Rome-themed movie suggestions.
“I focus on the every day cultural things – the things that, at least for me, I find fascinating in the daily life of a city,” Chau said.
Similarly, “A Night in Paris” guide includes information on traditional, multi-course French dinners with recipes for aperitifs, hors d’oeuvre, plat principal (main), fromage (cheese), and dessert and French films.
“A Night in Tokyo” enables participants to learn how to make sushi, discern the finer nuances of sake, offers a Spotify playlist featuring Japanese music, and such movie suggestions as “Land of the Rising Sun.”
Some voyages were created in tandem with celebrations, such as “Brunch in France” and “Afternoon Tea in London” for Mother’s Day, and “A Night in Mexico City” for Cinco de Mayo.
Each guide is available for $19.99.
Chau is promoting Virtual Voyages through ad campaigns and on Facebook and Instagram and is assessing which messaging is resonating with her audience. “I’m just having fun with it,” she said.
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