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May You Live In Interesting TimesFebruary 17, 2009 By: Mike Going
This is a phrase we’ve all heard before and one that we are clearly living through. The events of the past few months from the election to the economy have been truly historic and have had an effect on everyone, both personally and professionally.
I did a quick online search for the origins of this phrase and found a few surprises. First, its origins are not easily traced or agreed upon, but many believe it came from an ancient Chinese curse wishing someone much upheaval and trouble in his or her life. There is also another Chinese interpretation that may have been its inspiration: “Hero’s (leaders) are made over turbulent times.” It’s interesting that one interpretation comes from cursing you to a life of challenges and the other encourages you to lead during those same difficult times. It’s all about perspective.
As we quickly become engrossed in this year’s day-to-day execution, it’s important to pause and reflect on both long and short term goals. Just as important, how will you, the travel agent, choose to tailor your method of reaching these goals and what is your perspective as you work toward these goals?
Times of great change present opportunity for those positioned to take it. While the overall market is down, it’s important to take an aggressive stance to solidify business by understanding your customers, providing what they need when they need it and utilizing resources to bring new prospects in the door. Not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, but one that anyone is capable with the correct tools and perspective. Here are a few tools that I find helpful and may be worth adding to your collection.
Emphasize Value – If price is king, than value is queen. A low price point will only take you so far; remember to emphasize the expertise and value you provide to your customers. Encourage travelers to think about the importance of their experience. A customer can find a cheap vacation without a travel agent; your job is to help them find an unforgettable vacation at an unbelievable value. You can’t put a price on customer service, in-destination assistance and confidence in an agency or company. People feel that they’re working just as hard, if not harder, than ever before and have earned the right to travel!
Know Your Customer – First and foremost, know your existing customer base before expanding to new customers. Learn to anticipate their behaviors, needs and wants. Talk to people living in your market. What is really important to them right now? What can they live without? What are they willing to make sacrifices for? Respect that travelers want the most from every vacation dollar and tailor the shopping and booking experience to meet their needs and ease concerns or uncertainty. Know that they’re scrutinizing their purchase decision and inspire trust by providing them with a product that meets their demand.
Sell the Memory – Memories created while on vacation will last forever. Toys, clothes and gadgets go out of style, break or are simply forgotten in the back of a closet. Remind your customers that purchasing a vacation is an investment in their family, friends or loved one. This investment provides an immeasurable return that will last a lifetime.
You can help customers save money without compromising their experience. Look for added values offered by domestic and international hotels that help stretch every vacation dollar. Values like free nights, food or dining credits, free breakfast and the like can enhance an experience without increasing the cost. Travel agents should also encourage travelers to protect their vacation investment. Right now uncertainty is a fact of life and travel protection gives customers the peace of mind that they may cancel their vacation should the unexpected arise. Make sure you’re steering your customers in the right direction when it comes to choosing travel protection; provide them with protection they can trust and they’ll trust you.
It’s all about perspective. How will your perspective change the way you approach opportunities this year? As we look ahead towards the future I encourage you to stay positive and remember: “Hero’s (leaders) are made over turbulent times.
Mike Going, president, Funjet Vacations
Mike Going is the president of Funjet Vacations. He can be contacted at [email protected]