Get Us in Your Inbox
Travel advisors can’t meet with clients and suppliers in person, but they most certainly can get innovative when it comes to informing clients and getting them excited about a possible dream trip.
Tasha Lynn Stahl, agency owner of Pack and Play Travel in Huron, S.D., realized as much after another day of executing cancellations and watching her business take a nosedive as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to be creative and stay in front of my clients, but I also know that now is not the time to push for sales or advertise to them,” Stahl said. “Instead, I wanted to educate them and help them build their bucket lists."
Reaching for the stars, she emailed 10 “bucket list” suppliers she had taken one-on-one meetings with at Northstar Travel Group’s Global Travel Marketplace event, and asked each of them to host their own event on the video-conferencing platform Zoom, complete with thematic food and drink pairings. The suppliers — which ranged from Ntaba African Safaris to National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures — all responded in the affirmative within 24 hours. (Note: Northstar Travel Group is the parent company of TravelAge West).
RELATED: 10 Creative Ways for Travel Advisors to Keep in Touch With Clients Right Now
After this new idea took off, Stahl understood that she suddenly had greater access to suppliers — as well as both repeat and potential clients.
“Clients aren't busy every night with kids’ activities,” she said. “They aren't working late nights, and they are looking for any type of social interaction.”
Stahl said she chose Zoom as the platform for her events over other video-hosting websites such as YouTube and Facebook due to Zoom’s capabilities for interactive collaboration. She is rolling out the series with six events, held at the same time (7:30 p.m.) on Tuesday nights. She promotes each event using Facebook posts, a dedicated Facebook event page, in emails and on the Pack and Play Travel website.
In addition to emphasizing the opportunity to learn about the world and speak with experts for free, Stahl upped the ante: She incentivized her virtual partygoers with the chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Since the events take place on Zoom — which requires an email for registration — Stahl can email participants post-party with a personalized “thank you.” (Or, she sends the message via snail mail, if she has the client’s address).
Suppliers leading these events are aware that they shouldn’t “sell” but inspire, Stahl says. A chat box allows attendees to ask questions, making the evening interactive and fun — while also allowing the seeds to be planted for future trip planning.
“One attendee asked, ‘What is an ideal amount of time to spend in your destination?’ which I felt was huge,” she said. “If that question was coming from me, people might think I am pushing more days on them to make more money.”
Stahl was aiming to attract 10 clients for each evening, but she says she has surpassed that goal with between 20-30 guests for her first two events. Upcoming events already have a good number of registrants.
Despite the relaxed nature of the evenings, Stahl says they seem to be working from a business standpoint.
April 14: The Sunny Side of GermanyApril 21: Alaskan Railroad & Anchorage Tourism April 28: Italy Walking & Wine TourMay 5: South African Safaris With NtabaMay 12: River Cruising, Guided Tours – British Isles, Italy & More May 19: Live Like a Local National Geographic Tours
“I have had several attendees reach out afterward and thank me for the information, saying that as soon as the dust settles, they will be planning a trip,” she said. “After talking about the Alaska Railroad at my Alaska event, I had three clients reach out to me to go there and see the northern lights. I am working on quoting those now.”
Even after life returns to some level of normalcy, Stahl wants to continue hosting virtual events once or twice per month.
“Living in a rural area, we don't have any business development managers within six hours of us, so getting them here is hard,” she said. “But, if we can do it virtually, that's a great option.”
The DetailsPack and Play Travelwww.packplaytravel.com
Read more from TravelAge West about the COVID-19 outbreak.