1. Practice realistic optimism. There will be more highs and more lows before this is all over. You’ll awaken to a surprising request for a huge booking but an hour later, your most intrepid client will abruptly cancel a $50,000 trip with a sudden case of the qualms. It’s best not to attach yourself too strongly to the very good things or the very depressing things that happen every day. Brace to maintain a balanced middle ground when you start working every morning.
2. Accept your new specializations. You’ve worked so hard this summer becoming an expert in domestic travel you don’t even realize it. In fact, you never realized quite how many luxury hotels and ranches there were in the United States and you’ve also learned that some of your most fussy clients are into glamping. Don’t waste this knowledge, be the travel advisor for ALL of your customers’ domestic vacations from this moment on. In fact, start the conversation now about which great part of America they want to see next summer.
3. Ditto for villa vacations. True, your real love is mapping out itineraries for clients to explore the gorgeous regions of Europe, not relentlessly tracking down accommodations with private pools in the middle of nowhere. But guess what? Even if we wake up tomorrow and are free to travel all over the world, many will have post-traumatic stress from this pandemic. Not everyone is going to want to mix and mingle with strangers in 2021, so continue to sharpen your knowledge of villas and private homes.
4. Repeat after me: “Your clients like you. They really, really like you.” You’ve gotten them out of some pretty big pickles over the last few months, returned thousands of dollars to them, rescued their children from overseas as countries were closing their borders and possibly done most of that for free. If you haven’t taken this summer to learn how to charge for your time, you’re going to hate yourself forever. Take the classes your networks are running online and do what they say. Post your fee structure on your website so it’s not some big awful secret you need to reveal in the middle of a conversation with a client. If the topic does come up, have your elevator pitch ready to explain what the fee entails and why you’re charging it. Do not apologize, don’t fumble over your words and don’t laugh nervously.
5. This you can count on: Clients want to travel. This is not like the downturn of 2008/09 when they couldn’t, wouldn’t, or felt like they shouldn’t travel because of finances. What a luxury to know they have their bags packed for the moment you say go. Take a deep breath to accept this happy fact, but then get to work on detailing where they will be able to go first, based on your knowledge that travel may still be a challenge when borders open up. Do you have a set list of suppliers you work with? Are they working to full capacity? Do they have new rules and conditions? Map out a list of those clients you expect to be traveling first and in a column next to that, map out a list of go-to suppliers who are staffed up to deliver on their expectations.
6. Travel insurance. You’ve already gotten a rude education in 2020 in terms of what is covered and what is not covered by travel insurance and most of that was on what was not covered. Brush up on your knowledge of the product offerings in this category and explain it to your clients in black and white right up front so you’re not explaining after the fact why they’re not getting any money back from a trip not taken.
7. More good news. Those clients who didn’t travel this year or didn’t buy a yacht so they can sail wherever they want, may have additional funds to spend in 2021, as long as they didn’t end up in the unemployment line. Find a way to graciously broach the concept that they may want to double down to make up for their “no vacay” status in 2020. Will they consider upgrading their air to first class or even private jet? Or how about taking that top suite in that iconic hotel? If 2021 is a turn-around year, this would be a good way to celebrate it. Tip: Start looking at booking now, since there are only so many top suites to go around.
8. Celebration travel is still a thing. The desire to bring friends and family together to fete a special birthday or anniversary hasn’t been hampered by COVID. Research hotels they can take over in 2021 where they can be together without the crowds.
9. A deluge of honeymoons: Even if your clients managed to assemble a chic backyard wedding and then escape to a local hotel, they’re still planning for that lavish honeymoon they feel they so richly deserve. It’s time to plan with these couples to see what they may have in mind, whether it’s a luxury all-inclusive in Mexico or the Caribbean or a three-week adventure to southern Africa and the Maldives, because in 2021, you’ll be twice as busy.
10. You’ve got this. As a luxury travel advisor, you’re an expert at dealing with trouble, or as we prefer to say, “challenges.” This is just a lot of trouble that’s gone on for a long time. Network with other advisors online and on Zoom calls to get encouragement when you need a pick me up and so you can be the one to help carry others through when you’re having a good day. We will all get through this together.