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This issue’s cover story, “A New African View” (page 14), examines different ways to experience Africa beyond the traditional safari. Travel advisors have an opportunity to surprise clients by suggesting unconventional activities — such as checking out the emerging food scene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, or booking a cycling tour in Rwanda. This approach not only reinforces the agent’s expertise, but it also gives travelers all-important bragging rights.
In fact, these examples illustrate how our approach to travel in general has changed over the years. It used to be that sophisticated travelers boasted about going to the finest restaurants in Paris. Now, if you want to impress clients, you need to know about the culinary offerings in Tel Aviv, Manila or Lima. Everyone knows New York City has great restaurants, but did you know that Osaka, Japan, has more Michelin stars? The “wow factor” is in the surprise.
You can see this play out in destinations such as Kenya, which is spending a lot of marketing dollars promoting its beaches. Of course, Kenya is known for its wildlife, but your clients may get more comments by posting photos of a kite-surfing lesson in Mombasa. (And, by the way, this marketing approach seems to be working: According to recent numbers from Virtuoso, year-over-year summer bookings to Kenya are up 89%.)
The power of the unexpected in a trip itinerary makes sense when you think about your own life experiences. Truly memorable moments are the ones that are unusual and surprising — travel already gets people out of their routines, so advisors have a window in which they can make a powerful impression.
In order to do this, however, agents need to understand the types of experiences their clients would like, and make sure they are up to date on the opportunities available in a destination. It takes a bit of effort, but if you can surprise your customers with an unexpected travel tip, there’s a good chance that word of your success will spread, leading to even more business.