“I feel so guilty going on this cruise, I can’t even tell you.”
That's a quote from my good friend, Brenda, and I have to say that her comment truly took me aback.
The cruise had been totally paid for, for months. It was a modest trip in a modest cabin on a mid-priced cruise line. Brenda was working, had been working hard all year, as had her husband. None of her children had recently become unemployed, and yet Brenda said she felt tremendously guilty because of what was going on in the world financial markets.
Her comment was a real eye opener because it made me realize what the travel industry is going through right now. Consumers are frozen— they don’t know what to do. Brenda was afraid of how she would be perceived going on a cruise when the country’s financial markets were in turmoil, even though she had the means and a perfectly good reason to take a vacation.
What’s striking me as odd these days is that almost no one is pointing out the good news— that that the cost of fuel has plummeted. That’s amazingly good news to homeowners who were wondering how they’d get through the winter in a warm house this year. The price of gasoline has come down by about 60 cents per gallon in my neighborhood on Long Island. That’s a godsend to those who commute.
Not All Doom and Gloom
Want more good news? It’s never been easier to reach people free of charge than ever before— free of charge. With venues such as Facebook and MySpace and other social networking websites, business owners can participate in viral marketing as they never have before. I’ve just read a new book called Dirty Little Secrets of Buzz: How to Attract Massive Attention for Your Business, Your Product, or Yourself by David Seaman, which has some other tips on how to “spend almost nothing” to promote yourself.
My other thought is that consumers aren’t going to give up traveling with their families. This is a party of the post-9/11 value system in our country. If your clients are not able to make their pilgrimage to Orlando on their next trip, keep that in their wish book but suggest they visit a national park instead. The best part is the views are free and the refreshments are much less expensive.
You’ve heard of the pity party; I believe it’s time for travel agents to throw a celebration event in their community. Why not have an event promoting the aforementioned good news and invite those people you are pretty sure haven’t been negatively impacted by the economic travails that are plaguing others? Partner up with a supplier who has some co-op money to spend and be sure to convey to your guests what your message is: Times are tough but you don’t have to give up all of your luxuries. Travel is your right and you deserve to take the vacation you’ve toiled so hard to earn.
In the meantime, be sure that those clients from whom you’ve taken a deposit stay enthused about their upcoming trip. I’m hearing from more and more puzzled suppliers that even though clients have already put money on their trips, some are opting out, even at closer-in times when their forfeiture is quite high. Stay in touch with your customers so that you’ll catch them at that moment when they, like my friend, Brenda, start to think about world affairs and wonder what business they have enjoying themselves. They need you now more than ever. Keep the excitement level about travel high by steadily e-mailing them articles about the destinations they’re about to visit so that they simply cannot wait to go. These days, you’ve got to work harder than ever to maintain the business you’ve already booked, but if you’re able to share your passion for the adventure they’re about to embark upon, the battle is halfway won.