Column: Making Summer Travel Easier

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Now that summer is upon us, we thought this column, which originally ran in 2014, would be of interest as you get ready to send your clients on the road.

There’s a way to build a hotel lovingly, and that’s to program it based around how people will enjoy it. That stone path down to the ocean will be constructed with a bend in it that will reveal a peek into the resort’s garden, or the view from the balcony will be framed in an archway that exposes dead center a rustic pier reaching out onto the water. Programming has its practical aspects as well, to ensure that the guest can use the space in a hotel without tripping over an objet d’art and that there’s flow in a guest room or lobby.

Ruthanne Terrero

When I met recently with Aubrey Tiedt, vice president of guest services for Etihad Airways, I realized there’s another type of programming that goes on for the guest. Tiedt launched the “Flying Nanny” program for Etihad, which includes much more than putting an assistant on the plane to deal with crying kids. It’s actually a dedicated in-flight child assistance program for all travelers on long-haul flights regardless of which class they are flying in.

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In the design phase, Etihad considered what it’s like for a child to embark on a plane, into an environment chock full of very tall seats row after row after row with people standing in much closer quarters than they’re used to. They thought twice about what a fretful child might really be upset about. Instead of writing them off as cranky fliers, they might just be scared to pieces and wondering why all the adults around them are in a cheerful mood, unconcerned about all of the strange noises about. Tiedt trained its Flying Nannies to approach children on board with that mindset so they could care for their needs in a more understanding manner. Now that’s programming.

Hearing Tiedt describe this process, I realized that travel advisors can program vacation experiences for those who might have needs in an equally sensitive manner.

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Consider the client who is hard of hearing but hasn’t quite gotten around to wearing a hearing aid yet. Can you let the car service transferring him from the airport to the hotel know discretely that they need to speak a bit louder when they want to confirm the destination they’re driving to? Will the staff in the hotel you’re sending him to pick up on this trait and instinctively lean in when they speak to him to be sure he hears what they’re asking? Or is the hotel scene brusque with hipness and loud music, and so confusing, the poor guy will never quite know what’s going on?

Now consider the couple that doesn’t walk as well as they used to. They’re not in wheelchairs and they’re both still mobile, but you’ve noticed they’re definitely walking a little slower than in the past. Is the car picking them up an SUV they’ll have to climb up into with a bad knee and then worry the rest of the drive how they’ll get back out without falling out of the vehicle? Request a sedan for them so they won’t have to worry. Can you program a hotel stay where there’s no need for them to walk up a flight or two to their villa accommodations?

Summer creates an eternal wanderlust in most of us; your clients are going to want to get out and enjoy. Take a few minutes to design details into their itineraries that will make it physically easier for them to travel.