Whoever I am, wherever I come from and whatever my personality, I’m not interested in being viewed and treated like everyone else and no one in particular. This is precisely the mood among modern travellers worldwide. I’ve previously referred to 2016 as the Year of the Experience – the evolution of travel has brought us to this point where every aspect of the Travel Buyer Journey has to factor in the travel consumer’s experience. Sure we care about our clients, but how we show it is becoming increasingly significant – it’s in the bottom line and in the profit margin.
Love thy client, not thy product.
According to ASATA President, Vanya Lessing, the conversation for travel professionals has to revolve around why people travel in order to gain an understanding of the traveller’s pain points.
…they expect their travel agent to know their personal travel preferences and to use their knowledge of travel products and relationships with travel suppliers to cater for their personal preferences.
Profile your Travellers
Travel is now a buyer’s market – time to do your research, get connected and get creative with your sales and marketing. It might all sound like a return to school and uni, having to study psychology and statistics with mindboggling technology to top it off, but like I’ve told you before, tech is your friend. The knowledge that your clients – existing and prospective – are connected and therefore leave digital footprints in their wake, should make your antennae buzz with excitement. Monitor the simple click and you’ll gather a great deal of valuable data about your travellers, the most constructive form of voyeurism 🙂 They need you to be connected too because that empowers you to tweak your travel products to reflect the latest trends. Listen to their conversations on social media and elicit feedback from travellers. The clues are everywhere.
Your website should be capable, along with a solid CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system in place, of yielding that big data for you to strategise with.
The most modern…websites today emphasise…storytelling, more nuanced content for different consumer profiles, mobile-first modular design, and full-width photos and videos with a strong human voice.
Just a fancy way of saying: remember the traveller’s purchasing experience! Start with a visually engaging presentation, measure the interaction on your various digital sites and make the necessary adjustments according to your findings. It should be a work in progress and a labour of love.
The laid-back Resort Lover needs all conveniences available within close reach. Their primary interest is relaxing in comfort and luxury. They prize good service, full complement of facilities and amenities, good dining options in close proximity, that sort of thing. Definitely no hassles required.
Off-the-beaten-track Nature Lovers need to immerse themselves in the great outdoors, preferably away from crowded, noisy cities. For them interacting with nature, no matter where, is a spiritual experience. They’re not terribly fond of indifference to the environment and may even 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. The souvenirs they take home take pride of place and they’re keen to share what they learned with friends and relatives.
The thrill-seeking Party Lover is an adventurist who wants to be where the action is, nowhere too quiet or laid-back. They’re keen to go sightseeing and do excursions with other travellers. They’re open to new experiences and making new friends along the way. They define fun, fun defines them.
There are even different trends among travellers depending on their geographical origins.
According to a TripBaromenter study:
- 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 their loved ones
- Middle Easterners want to experience local life
- Asians want exhilarating experiences
Another more global trend for 2016 appears to be group/family travel, in particular multi-generational travel. Here it’s easy to fall into the one-size-fits-all trap, so beware of that. These groups need to be catered to as individuals with different interests, as well as being afforded the time to relax together over bonding experiences from which they can create memories together.
So why do they travel?
People no longer experience travel as if it’s an isolated event, a snatched moment in time with no relevance to the bigger picture of regular life. Travel can be an escape from routine, yes, but travellers tend to take home with them a lot more than just pictures, sunburn and an empty wallet. They may integrate something of their travel experience into daily life; so the effects are long-term and very real.
Over a third (38%) globally & 32% of APAC travellers also 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 (43%).
The same study found that families are the most likely to prioritise more time on relationships with friends and relatives upon returning from a trip. So there are deeper, further ramifications at play. Our role as travel professionals now take on a more special quality given the impact a holiday can have on a life.
It’s about broadening horizons, feeling immersed in local culture, and sharing the experience with loved ones.
Among the most prevalent motivations for travel are the ‘enhancing perspective’ (desire to grow and learn), liberation, harmony and luxury. That exotic destination you sell, do you include a visit with the locals of the are for the traveller motivated to enhance their perspective? How appropriate it would be to offer such a client the opportunity to interact with the locals, who would sell their destination with personal stories and unique insights not normally found in guidebooks. The idea is diversify your offerings to appeal to the various human interests and needs you’ve identified with your research.
This is the basis of Personalisation and the modern traveller is willing to pay for it.
People are taking a larger portion of their budget or allocating more spending to in-destination experiences. David Kolner
The way you design your products and the way you market them should equally reflect customisation to suit the consumer as individual traveller – this is the way to answer the demand for authenticity.
Give them what they need, not what you want
Once you’ve figured out what kind of travellers your clients are, where they come from and what motivates them to travel, then you can confidently 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.
I learned a long time ago (mostly the hard way) that you can’t travel with just anyone. Even your best friend can be your worst travel buddy. No matter how much you like each other, in travel, not having similar temperaments and interests can be a recipe for disaster. It’s a simple matter of compatibility.
Exactly the same concept applies to matching the right travel products to the right traveller.
Studies conducted on the subject (by SKIFT) help us understand the differences between the traditional (older) luxury traveller and the emerging (millennial) luxury traveller.
While the 2 groups appear to be evenly split in terms of their preferences toward structured or unstructured itineraries, they differ in every other aspect. Older luxury travellers lean more towards relaxing holidays, they value luxury and brand reputations, prefer African or Australian destinations and high-end luxury accommodation.
They are less concerned with new experiences, learning about other cultures, etc. while millennials are more so. The latter lean more towards exciting holidays, value traveller reviews, prefer Latin American or Asian destinations and good value accommodation.
All that’s left to do is to bring that expertise into the equation. After all, a major reason travellers continue to use travel professionals like us in the DIY techno age, is to save time and money using our expertise, for security, crisis management and those desirable special touches we add to make their holiday extra memorable.
Your Business Intelligence reigns supreme here. All that precious data you’ve acquired over years in the trade put to good use – to the benefit of your client. At this stage it’s easy to match the traveller with the most appropriate type of itinerary, the right destination(s), the right suppliers of accommodation and room type, the right activities and day tours, the right special touches, restaurants, every single trick you have up your operator/agent sleeve. You may even be able to find a Supplier Special or 2 appropriate to your client’s itinerary – all of it correctly customised, utterly unique and precisely personalised.
I’ve been different kinds of traveller at different times of my life. After a 12 year stretch as an independent traveller, I’ve done more structured, guided tours with my mother and more recently, mostly child/teen-friendly trips.
People’s life situations change and so do their travel preferences and needs.
How else are you going to know what to offer me if you don’t ask me what I want? Or stalk me (nicely) on social media? You can and must!
Travellers are more willing now than ever to share this vital information and entrust you with it 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?