OASIS Travel Network (OTN) recently hosted an expert panel discussion with commentary from leading travel advisors led by OTN president Kelly Bergin. The panel touched on strategies being used by travel advisors to engage with their clientele now to ensure future business. Panelists included Lori Spoelstra, Adventures by Lori; Kareem George, Culture Traveler; Shelly Riedemann, Castaway Dream Travel; and Pat Hand, Dancing Moon Travel. The utilization of social media to stay connected and relevant was a large focus, including solutions for those who seek assistance with their efforts.
“You have to start by looking closest to you and at the resources right in front of you that you maybe don’t realize you have,” George said, referencing the realization that his partner’s niece recently graduated with a specialization in social media marketing and could share her skills with Culture Traveler.
“Social media is really one of those things where you have to step outside your comfort zone to do,” said Spoelstra, adding that it’s an effort worth doing, even if you’re not fond of the process. “Especially in today’s culture where you can’t just set up a booth at a tradeshow and can’t do a lot of networking, it really is a good option for us.”
When it comes to speaking with clients about the current state of travel, choosing your words carefully is always advised.
“I use the words ‘cautiously optimistic’ a lot,” said Hand, who stressed the importance of being honest with your clients—a point Riedemann agreed with.
“A big thing for us is honesty and letting accurate information drive client’s vacation decisions,” Riedemann added, saying it’s vital to set client expectations early, especially when it comes to refund policies. “Really listening to the customer and what their concerns are will help guide the conversations that you have with them.”
Some key takeaways from the discussion:
- Utilize social media: Stay active online and consistently visible to your clients, choose engaging content themes, take advantage of Facebook live, and make intentional decisions.
- Stay relevant: Reach out to clients in various ways, so they know you’re open for business—including hosting casual group client chats or even virtual wine tastings—leaving no question about who they give their business to when they’re ready to travel again.
- Consider assistance that operates on a pay-as-you-go basis: To avoid paying out cash upfront for marketing help, negotiate payment based on your earned commissions.
- Make your content work for you: Consistently offer tips and the latest information to show you’re in the know via e-newsletters, share personal images and stories from past travels, and reach out to tourism boards who have a wealth of available resources to show off the best a destination has to offer.
- Use your time wisely: Take advantage of virtual FAMs to learn more about a destination, in addition to tackling accreditations that you may have wanted to complete.
- Listen to customer concerns: Whether it’s about safety or travel restrictions, make time to hear your clients out—a courtesy that builds trust.
- Remain optimistic: Whether it’s a taking part in a sport or hobby, finding solace in your faith, or a finding a shared commonality with clients, sharing the brighter moments and giving yourself grace offers hope for the future.