I once had an entire month of vacation time to take, a glorious but uncommon luxury for me. I wasted a whole lot of that time planning a complex trip. I could afford to have a travel professional take that work out of my hands, but no, I was Ms Independent Traveller! I had more money than time and good sense. I knew exactly what I wanted, just not how to get it.
What travellers want
Back then I was living abroad and unsure whom to approach to help make logistical sense of my confused travel plans: from experiencing Poland in springtime to visiting friends in England, collecting stuff in storage in Dublin and visiting the geese in Galway, and I was dying to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I also needed visas. I was an idiot. But a passionate one.
It used to be that people were ticking things off their travel list. Now people want to do it because they have a personal passion.
Like Ms Independent Traveller, most modern travellers demand to be treated like individuals. That human touch goes beyond the simple reassurance of a face to talk to or a voice on the phone. (If anything happens to me, who’ll take care of me??) Travellers want to know whom they’re dealing with, what values that travel company represents and what qualifies them to provide memorable experiences. They’re after transparency and customer service on steroids.
Industry trends point to steady growth in global tourism over the last 5 years with Asia and South America as emerging economies. According to IBISWorld this growth is expected to continue as the global economy continues to strengthen. Plenty of business to go around then!
Are your business objectives aligned with traveller demands?
Let’s consider how you can:
- build client loyalty for repeat business
- develop strong brand identity
- expand market share
- keep pace with competition
- develop tourism
- be profitable!
To earn repeat business, you need loyal clients. Loyal clients are happy clients whose emotional needs and demands have been met. They want your time, personal attention and some tender loving care (TLC). Service your clients with better access to you and sincere, open communication to cultivate a relationship with them.
Align this objective with what travellers demand, by circulating client information efficiently throughout your company.
Spare your clients the indignity of repeating themselves if they happen to speak to different employees.
Travellers aren’t robots – don’t give them robotic, scripted responses.
Treat them with humanity, recognise their unique interests and communicate this to them throughout with personable interaction and messaging.
Engage them with personalised e-mails and social media (SM) attention, and update them regularly with non-invasive newsletters.
Personal interactions have always been a hallmark of great service, consumers now see these interactions as a critical cornerstone of memorable brands.
Cultivate loyalty by creating a community for travellers, where their input is valued, where other travellers can reassure them that they’ve thrown in their lot with a trustworthy brand. Present your staff to the world on your website and in SM: produce a company video or get your staff to take turns posting blog entries.
Make that emotional connection between brand and traveller by putting faces/voices to the names.
Show who does what at your company; offer backstories, so humanising the buying experience for the client from start to finish.
Keep those happy clients coming back for more.
Developing your brand
Image is everything – how you’re perceived impacts your business directly. Your products reflect your brand – the way you promote them both should be visually appealing. Travellers want to identify with your brand style and design; so make these consistent across the presentations of your offerings and marketing platforms. You can lose their trust with bland, dull imagery and conflicting design styles as if you don’t really care how you’re perceived. Choose a flavour and stick to it.
An honest brand exposes itself (almost to scrutiny) because it’s fearless and proud of what it represents. The same applies to partnerships – do your partners share your values? Any specials and value-adds incorporated into your offerings should stick to the script: if luxury is your core offering, don’t confuse clients by hooking them up with an activity company that transfers them from their 5 star lodge in a shared minivan when they’re expecting private chauffeur-driven luxury transfers. Certainly don’t fake it. Portraying a brand as something different from what it actually offers simply attracts the wrong kind of client.
Compatibility is integral to any relationship-based business such as yours.
Hustle to get favourable reviews written about your company, products and customer service. Remember, you’re selling a traveller’s experience of your brand. Today’s YouTube generation googles how to do just about everything – tempt them with a snackable video testimonial or get some choice UGC to blow your trumpet.
By now you’ve heard of Content Marketing: powerful, non-selling strategic use of content purely designed to benefit, inform and entertain.
Modern travellers tend to be better informed, educated, and more sophisticated than tourists of old. As with your SM presence, the content you use needs to convey your brand, messaging, company personality, associations with causes or charities.
If you can convince, reassure and to an extent seduce travellers with your content, if you’re seen as reliable and altruistic, you’ll score major brand brownie points.
For a bigger slice of the pie, compete for business in other geographies or develop products in other experiences; get your expertise up to a competitive level. Research where travellers suffer a shortfall – maybe it’s the unavailability of content and/or services in different languages. This could be a good time to invest in a French-speaking consultant to help you target the francophone market. Have your content translated; outsource what you can’t do yourself. Join industry-specific communities on SM and gain valuable knowledge about destinations you haven’t yet visited.
To gain a bigger market share you’ll require more time at your disposal. Technology can earn you that time. But to really hit your mark with modern travellers, gift them the freedom to express their unique tastes. The demand for a more personalised travel experience originates from travellers having complex or unusual requirements that don’t match up with anything existing in the market. Fill that void with your expertise and time-saving tech.
Successful travel professionals will be masters at crafting personalized travel experiences.
Keep tabs on your competitors. Find out what they’re doing, learn from them, then do it better. Why should travellers buy from you and not your competition? Because you use smart technology to gain insight into what consumers are looking at, so you can anticipate their interests. Because your suppliers provide their best content and specials, which you incorporate into more impressive presentations. Because you share knowledge acquired from trade shows, educationals among your entire staff. Because you pioneer innovations like mobile payment options that make buying travel easier.
Then there’s working with the frenemy. Collaborate with suppliers of accommodation, activities, day tours, restaurants, etc. that operate in your destination(s) and cater to the same clientele you do. Attend trade shows to meet potential partners as well as clients, and share ideas. Coming soon is the World Travel Market in London – check out those stats.👇🏻 How better to keep an eye on your competition!
Finally, your competitors are all over SM – why not you? Zero presence means zero engagement with potential clients. You risk being left behind if you fear tech or doing things differently, if you’re not bothered to find out how Instagram and Pinterest are relevant to travel. SM requires analysis and with detailed planning, can pay off handsomely for you.
A poorly managed social media strategy can hurt your brand. Reporting facilities will allow you to track, manage or alter your strategy in line with your goals.
Travellers want epic experiences, not forgettable, mediocre ones. They want sound infrastructure and seamless logistics. They want convenient access to accurate destination, activity and accommodation info. And modern travellers demand new kinds of tourism (eco-tourism, sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, spiritual, volunteer, educational, well-being, and more). To seal the deal, they demand an empowering purchasing experience.
Listening to travellers is vital; using their feedback to improve on products and services makes business sense; providing fresh, relevant travel content is logical; and learning from peers all aid our evolution as tourism professionals. Reinvest in the talent pool by hiring tech-savvy graduates who adopt and adapt to new technologies quickly. Combine thorough mentoring with their tech proficiency and affinity with millennials, to lay the building blocks for the future of tourism.
Travel professionals who see the big picture understand that developing a healthy trade serves everyone.
How well we integrate new ways of doing things and respond to changing demands will ensure that tourism survives, because we give them what they want.
The business bottom line is about doing more in less time with the resources you have. Start by identifying the technology that will improve efficiency in your business practices, then upskill your staff accordingly. Give them opportunities to learn and grow, possibly profit share, so that they have a personal stake in the company’s success. Happier staff takes better care of clients; and that makes a happy traveller!
Is your website hitting the mark? Ensure it is responsive and relevant, and that all your communications drive traffic towards it.
Some argue that they have little to no use for a website. This attitude is a little short sighted – how will you attract new customers & service tech savvy travellers down the track?
Being objective about your website can be hard; so get an outsider to assess it.
User experience should be standard consideration – making the buying experience easier means thinking like a traveller, not like a travel professional.
Beware of focusing too much on your traditionally tech intolerant traveller. One size doesn’t fit all. If your web presence doesn’t attract attention, there’s no interest to convert to sale!
Most of these better business practices have crossover benefits for different traveller demands. It means making a few strategic changes for multiple benefits. The reason most of us do what we do is a love for travel and the value it adds to life. But there are budgets, staff and profit to consider. We want to grow and stand for something because that becomes our legacy. Sound sentimental to you? Well, your travellers have never been more emotionally-driven. From where I’m writing, it seems like a match made in heaven, for travel.