Lately, we’ve had lots of clients come to us to plan trips for well into 2020—by “well into” I mean the months leading up to and immediately after Election Day. People that would otherwise be last-minute planners are coming to us saying things like, “We just want something to look forward to,” or “We just want to get away from the news cycle.”
I think we can all relate to this.
Having a trip on the calendar gives us something to set our sights on. It can motivate us to get projects done, lose weight, get in shape. It can inspire us to educate ourselves about a new place, read everything we can get our hands on.
It enables us to look forward to spending time with our spouses, our family or other travel companions. It forces us to change the subject and zoom in on our own future, our own interests and priorities.
As travel advisors, we play a major role in the whole process, of course, by planning the trips themselves. But we can have an even more significant impact by our thoughtful caring of our clients.
Here are some tips to help make your client’s trip planning a positive experience they enjoy.
Set the Date: While some of your clients come to you with rigid dates they must travel (because of school, work and other obligations), there are surely some that come to you and say, “Oh we’d like to go sometime next fall,” or worse—“sometime next year.” Your first order of business is to push for the specific dates. Once a client has a date on the calendar, everything else can fall into place.
Don’t Bombard with Paperwork: We all have our forms that need to be completed by the clients—in a timely manner. Do yourselves and your clients a big favor: limit the amount of form filling they have to do. Interview on the phone to gather some info, keep your forms short, easy to read and fill in. Keep it as simple as possible.
Stay on top of Deadlines: Throughout the trip planning process, there are so many deadlines—when to pay the deposits, the balances, etc. There are also other deadlines though—getting visas, vaccinations and other health precautions, international driver’s permits…. For each client, gently remind them of the various tasks they are responsible for, allowing plenty of time for them to schedule.
Not Problems…Situations: When planning any trip, challenges inevitably come up. No rooms available at the hotel the clients want, no flights on the day they need to fly from Fez to Marrakech…and many others as you are well aware. Rather than upset your clients with unsolvable problems, view all problems as just situations. Before telling them anything is wrong, come up with alternatives, solutions.
Never Leave Unsettling Messages on Voicemail: Who wants to pick up voicemail at 11:00 at night and discover their credit card didn’t go through or a hotel has had to close for a few days because of brush fires in the county. Any bad news should be delivered in a two-way conversation—you talking with client direct.
Channel the Confidence and Calmness of a Nurse: If you’ve ever observed a nurse in a hospital or rehab center, you can see that he/she is pulled in many directions—each case urgent. The nurse methodically goes about her tasks, prioritizing and responding, taking action as needed. As a travel advisor, your clients are not exactly patients but they all seem to need you urgently. Project confidence and calmness and you will put their minds at ease.
Keep in Touch: Once you have your client trips set up, be sure to check in with them in the weeks leading up to their departure. Go above and beyond sending them the final documents. Be available to answer any questions (yes, even the ones they could easily Google). On the trip itself, check in on them and when they get home, be sure to schedule a conversation to discuss the details of the trip and ASK for pictures. Photos are often the best souvenirs of a trip and people often love to share them.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Connecticut. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.