Express Yourselves!

Mr. Ratomir Ivicic, director of the Croatian National Tourism Board, visited with us in our New York offices in late January. Croatia, an emerging destination for affluent travelers, is about to launch a new branding campaign to the North American market, which is increasingly visiting this beautiful destination.
 
Mr. Ratomir Ivicic, director of the Croatian National Tourism Board, visited with us in our New York offices in late January. Croatia, an emerging destination for affluent travelers, is about to launch a new branding campaign to the North American market, which is increasingly visiting this beautiful destination.

I recently heard of a corporation that was giving its employees the option of having a desk phone or not. This would have seemed bizarre 10 years ago, but lately, many of us can go through a day when we never pick up a phone.

At a conference I attended last week, an executive on a panel said the only time he has used a travel agent was when he went to China. He knew he’d made the right decision when he landed; during the private transfer, the driver of the car demanded more money for the ride. The client quietly texted his agent in the United States, who immediately got a hold of someone who called the driver to reprimand him.

The panelist said he was relieved he could text the agent because the idea of calling her in front of the driver was completely abhorrent to him. But he didn’t want to speak to her at all anyway. Ever. “As long as I could text her, it worked for me,” he said.

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His agent seemed able to service him this way but of course, he’s missing out on what human interaction can bring. What if, within his soul, he had a yearning for a dream trip and was only willing to express it to his travel advisor in a few abbreviated words over his phone? How could she ever get to know him, to understand how he wanted to feel while he was on this dream trip so she could set it all up for him?

This conversation will likely never occur. What will happen is he’ll try to research it online until he’s overwhelmed with options, then text his agent with some pricing he’ll expect her to beat. He’s missing out because, to him, a vacation will only ever be a plane ticket, a car and a hotel, just a few of the puzzle pieces that create memories.

To combat this consumer trend, Avenue Two Travel, which we profile in this issue, has completely changed the paradigm on how they do business. They’ve moved from a 1,000-square-foot office to one that’s 5,000 square feet in size and designed completely for the comfort of its clients, its advisors and visiting suppliers. Rooms are crafted to generate those conversations that will spur creative itineraries. The concept is to enable people to actually speak to each other and exchange ideas. This is an exciting new trend for luxury travel agencies. Largay Travel and Brownell Travel have also built out beautiful offices that they invite clients into, and Keith Waldon opened the doors of his Departure Lounge in Austin with this very concept in mind. In fact, his is a travel agency and a coffee shop/wine bar that offers a Happy Hour every night of the week.

These businesses are making it easier to work with the new consumer (who crosses over all generations, by the way) who simply doesn’t want to speak to other human beings when they’re purchasing a service. They’re making their locations so attractive that it would seem foolish not to go in and sit down, have a beverage and talk travel. Seriously, what’s more fun than that?

I’m sure, for years many of you have felt your job is to be a psychologist, to analyze your client and work through their issues to find out what they really are trying to tell you. Now you’ve got the added treat of analyzing people who don’t actually want to speak to you. They say being listened to is something humans crave the most, but how can they be listened to when they don’t want to communicate? Share your ideas with us on how you’re reaching this new clientele, who is perfectly content to plan the trip of a lifetime in 140 characters or less.

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