Now that travel is back, we must adapt how we network and (re)build trade relationships in order to shape the way the travel industry works.

No one is an island. You’ve made it this far and spent much of the pandemic period reflecting on your business and purpose. It’s time to connect with trade partners to build new relationships and revitalise existing ones.

Reconnect the disconnect

How will tour operators and DMCs know the state of operations in destinations they usually sell? How do agents know what activities and accommodations are available, and the best way to sell them in the current climate? With opportunities in local tourism and new destinations opening up to travel, operators, property managers and hospitality services should work together on products that enrich local experiences and build new experiences.

You need to reach out and connect with your existing contacts and start new relationships virtually wherever you find common ground. Identify the gaps and try to fill them, including: updated product information; ideas for new products and marketing strategies; lobby support; travel tech support.

Your efforts will go much further when you join forces than when you go it alone. And connection is key to ensuring all stakeholders sing from the same hymn sheet.

Make building relationships your business

If you’re a tour operator, you should connect with destination marketers to learn how destinations have adapted to new demand. As a DMC, you should guide your agents on what products are in an out of contention. Accommodation and hospitality marketers, your safety protocols and new value-adds are vital info to your re-sellers. They depend on you more than ever to update their product knowledge.

Don’t leave your trade partners assuming that nothing has changed when it has – it doesn’t help them, yourself or your customers.

Mailer marketing

Choose a focus and set up regular communications to provide your partners with valuable information. It signals that you’re in it together, you need each other, and have each other’s back.

  • Have you refreshed your marketing assets? Freely share any updated content and visual media.
  • Got new value-adds, product features or specials? Do a campaign to highlight what you’re ready to offer on your own, and another campaign for the ones you want to collaborate on.
  • Want to know who’s open for business and to what extent, what USPs, popular activities and services remain available, and what safety protocols your preferred suppliers have implemented? Send out fact-finding forms.
  • Need to understand how staff changes will impact on your work and offering? Update the contact information of your partners’ reservations, operations, product or marketing departments in order to react promptly as enquiries roll in.

Social media

Building relationships in the trade calls for a different approach from what you do with the travelling public. Sometimes, just be social. Always be professional and strategic.

  • Join communities, online groups and discussion forums, and tune into conversations that are relevant to your purpose.
  • Update your leads lists and systematically engage your audience with likes, shares and comments. Everyone needs a little boost in their social media analytics – it’s a new relationship, so go easy on the quid pro quo. When the time is right, ask for a follow-back with a promise of content they’ll want to see.
  • Wherever there are travellers seeking inspiration on Facebook, there are travel brands trying to make an impression. Leverage this to promote your marketing assets, tag your partners and share the glory.
  • Target new contacts on LinkedIn by geographical location. Introduce yourself by direct message, share links to your marketing assets, and suggest how to support each other. You can use LinkedIn Events to host your own online workshops and training webinars.

Virtual trade shows

Travel trade shows are back – with opportunities to start new and rebuild relationships, virtually if you’re not ready to attend in person. Just remember to have an action plan.

  • Identify trade members that sell your destination and share your objectives: to diversify your product offerings to suit the emerging market.
  • Compile separate contact lists: of trade partners to reconnect with; and of potential new partners to connect with.
  • Get the names of the right people to speak to and email them your introductions before showtime.
  • Discuss with your team beforehand what products or services you want to develop, and which other brands you envisage partnering with.
  • Research the destinations you operate in and understand conditions on the ground before you go into meetings. If there’s a strong case to lobby government on policy adjustments to facilitate tourism in your destination, then use this opportunity to discuss those issues and generate peer support.
  • Arrange one-on-one meetings early to avoid missing out and check your video equipment.
  • Check the programme for keynote speakers from the industry. The challenges that face you, face us all – it serves the entire industry to find solutions and grow together.

If you agree that good business is built on strong relationships, then make building relationships your business. This is how we see the travel industry rising from the ashes as a far more cohesive force than before.

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