Fulfill Travel Dreams

I've just returned from Europe, and while there is much to report on the details of the trip (which I'll do in a future issue), what I want to tell you about now are the other travelers in the group. As a bonding exercise, on the first evening we all went around the room to reveal to each other why we had chosen to take this trip.

To me, it was fairly obvious: The itinerary included Rome and Tuscany; how much more is there to be said about that?

Well, the other responses, all of which were emotionally charged, made mine seem rather shallow. One woman told us that her father had passed away a year ago. He had been born in Italy and she had never gotten to travel there with him. Now, she wanted to see his homeland and was hoping that this trip (only her second ever to Europe) would make him proud.

Another fellow traveler, who was much more well traveled, said that she had received a flyer in the mail promoting this particular itinerary and for some reason she had held onto it until she had time to truly focus on it. After reading it carefully one evening she decided to book it. "I must have been in a soul-searching mood, because the destinations really spoke to me," she said.

As the trip progressed over the next few days, I began to get a sense of how real-life people make their travel decisions, and I found that it's not as complicated as I had imagined. In the case of the couples that were traveling together, one of the spouses had felt strongly about taking this particular vacation, and his/her partner had fully acquiesced so the other could pursue his/her dream trip. (Dream is a word that was used by many when they described their visions for traveling.)

Keep the Excitement Level High

One traveling companion, also well traveled, told me that her fantasy was to go to Tahiti, because years ago she had cut out a beautiful photo of an over-the-water bungalow from a magazine. She was still saving the photo in the hope of going there one day, and I have no doubt that she will, because she seemed determined to get there.

All of these conversations made me realize that people travel for many different intangible reasons, but also for many of the same reasons. Travel fills the gaps in one's soul; when we take the time to consider a yet-unplanned dream journey, a lousy day can go a little more smoothly, and there's nothing like getting a respite from real life, is there?

How, then, as travel advisors, can you get in touch with the many visions of travel that your clients hold in their heads?

Anne Morgan Scully, president of McCabe World Travel in McLean, VA, interviews her clients continuously to determine where they want to travel and keeps careful notes on their responses. This practice makes it fairly easy for her to suggest "next trip" ideas to them, because she has an in-depth file on their desires that she carefully monitors.

Scully is also tops when it comes to keeping the dream alive in that timeframe between the trip confirmation and the date of departure. For example, if her clients have booked a seven-day cruise, she'll e-mail them information about each destination every few weeks or so to keep their excitement about the trip at a high level until they're actually on the ship.

This is a practice that truly makes sense. I think most of us would agree that the anticipation for a trip yet to come is all part of the dream (sometimes it's the best part!).

There are other simple ways to excite people about travel, and sometimes all it takes is sending them a mailer with a fabulous photo that lets them picture themselves in a suite in French Polynesia that's built over crystal-clear turquoise water. In other cases, if you know your customers' heritage, you'll be able to build them an itinerary that not only sends them to their grandparents' homeland, but that helps them to find a part of themselves that they felt had been missing all their lives.

Leave No Detail Unaccounted For

While all of this may seem fairly obvious, it's not easy. The dreams you sell must be perfectly crafted by you, with every detail taken into account. The suppliers you choose to work with must be reputable and have extremely high standards. It's so easy to destroy a dream if clients are treated poorly or even indifferently on their trip or if they feel their needs are not being tended to.

It's a lofty business we're in, but if you can keep your clients walking on air as they realize that trip of a lifetime, you've created magic—and probably repeat business, as well.

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC EDITORIAL DIRECTOR rterrero@questex.com