Whoever I am and wherever I come from, I don’t want to be viewed and treated like everyone else and no one in particular. This is the mood among modern travellers worldwide. We’ve identified 2016 as the Year of the Experience – at this point, every aspect of the travel buyer journey becomes the consumer experience. Sure you care about your clients, but how you show it is increasingly significant – to the bottom line and the profit margin.
Love thy client, not thy product
According to ASATA President, Vanya Lessing, the conversation for travel professionals must revolve around why people travel in order to understand travellers’ pain points.
…they expect their travel agent to know their personal travel preferences & to use their knowledge of travel products & relationships with travel suppliers to cater for their personal preferences.
Travel is a buyer’s market – time to do your research, profile travellers, and get creative with sales and marketing. Sorry for sending you back to school to study psychology and statistics, with mind-boggling tech to top it off. But I told you before: tech is your friend.
Knowing that your clients – existing and prospective – are connected and leave digital footprints in their wake, should get your antennae buzzing. Monitor the clicks and gather your treasure trove of traveller data for a bit of constructive voyeurism.😉
They need you to be connected too, so that you can tweak your products to reflect changing trends. Listen to their conversations on social media and elicit feedback from travellers. The clues are everywhere.
Your website should be capable of yielding that big data to help you strategise, along with a solid CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place.
The most modern websites today emphasise storytelling, more nuanced content for different consumer profiles, mobile-first modular design, full-width photos & videos with a strong human voice.
In other words, remember the traveller’s purchasing experience! Start with a visually-engaging presentation, measure interactions with your various digital sites and make the necessary adjustments according to your findings. Make it a work in progress and a labour of love.
The laid-back Resort Lover needs all conveniences available within close reach. Their primary interests are relaxation, comfort and luxury. They prize good service, all-inclusive facilities and amenities, good dining options in close proximity, and definitely no hassles.
Off-the-beaten-track Nature Lovers need an immersion in the great outdoors, away from city crowds and noise. Interacting with nature, no matter where, is a spiritual experience for them. They value the environment and may like to get involved in local conservation projects. A hike here, a horse-ride there and they’re happy campers.
The Culture Lover has a healthy curiosity about the way other people live. They want to observe, participate and learn about the customs, culture, and history of their destination. Bring them to historic sites, to mingle with the locals and attend cultural events or festivals. Their souvenirs take pride of place back home and they’re keen to share what they learned with friends and relatives.
The thrill-seeking Party Lover wants to be where the action is, nowhere too quiet or laid-back. As adventurists, they’re keen to go sightseeing and do excursions with other travellers. Open to new experiences and making new friends along the way, they define fun; fun defines them.
Even geographical origin cues different traveller trends. According to TripBaromenter:
- Australasians want memorable moments
- Europeans want to brag about enviable experiences
- Africans want to feel pampered
- Latin Americans want to meet new people
- North Americans want to strengthen relationships with loved ones
- Middle Easterners want local experiences
- Asians want exhilarating experiences
Another global trend for 2016 appears to be group/family travel, in particular multi-generational travel. Beware the one-size-fits-all trap! These groups must be catered to according to individual interests and still be afforded time for bonding experiences from which to create memories together.
So why do they travel?
People no longer experience travel as an isolated event, a snatched moment in time without relevance to the bigger picture of life. Travel starts as an escape from routine, but travellers will take home more than just pictures, sunburn and an empty wallet. They may incorporate something from their travel experience into regular life with long-term effects.
Over a third (38%) globally & 32% of APAC travellers introduce new foods into their diets. Travellers with no children are more likely to introduce foods they have tried while travelling into their daily diet.
The same study found that families are most likely to prioritise sharing their experiences and spending time with friends and relatives on returning home. So the role of travel professionals takes on more meaning given the impact a trip can have on a life.
The enhancing perspective is a prominent travel motivation – it’s about growth, learning, liberation, harmony and luxury.
That exotic destination you sell: do you include visits with locals to enhance your client’s perspective? Bringing them into direct contact with locals, creates opportunities for them to learn about the destination through personal stories and unique insights not normally found in guidebooks.
Diversify your offerings to appeal to different interests and needs, to enhance the experience. Your traveller has budgeted for it.
People are taking a larger portion of their budget or allocating more spending to in-destination experiences.
Your product design and the way you market it should be equally personalised to suit the individual traveller – this is how you answer the demand for authenticity.
Give them what they need, not what you want
Start by figuring out what kind of travellers your clients are, where they come from, what motivates them to travel.. Then go about your business of giving them what they need. Buyer’s market, remember? It’s not about your product – it’s about your client. Long ago, I learned the hard way not everyone can travel together – even your best friend can be your worst travel buddy. No matter how much you like each other, travelling with dissimilar temperaments and interests can be a recipe for disaster. It’s a matter of compatibility.
The same concept applies to matching the right travel products to the right traveller.
A SKIFT study teaches us by way of example, the differences between traditional (older) luxury travellers and emerging (millennial) luxury travellers.
The 2 groups appear evenly split in their preferences for structured or unstructured itineraries, but differ in every other aspect.
Traditional travellers lean towards relaxing holidays, value luxury and brand reputations, prefer African or Australian destinations, and high-end accommodation. They’re less concerned with new or learning experiences, which interest millennials more. The latter lean towards exciting holidays, value traveller reviews, prefer Latin American or Asian destinations and good value accommodation.
What comes next is your expertise. After all, travellers continue to use travel professionals in the DIY tech age for security, crisis management and those desirable special touches you add to make their trip memorable.
Your business intelligence reigns supreme here: to match the traveller with the right type of itinerary, the right destination(s), the right accommodation, activities, day tours and right restaurants. Every single trick you have up your sleeve, specials included, all utterly unique and precisely personalised.
Put your traveller on a pedestal
I’ve been different kinds of traveller until now. After a 12-year stretch as an independent traveller, I’ve done structured, guided tours with my mother and more recently, child/teen-friendly trips.
How will you know what to offer me if you don’t ask about my preferences? Or stalk me (nicely) on social media?
You can and must.
People’s life situations change; so do their travel preferences and needs.
Travellers are fortunately more willing now than ever to share and entrust you with this vital info in exchange for personalised travel experiences, tailored to their needs. To love thy client is to know thy client… or is it the other way round?