Written By: Jackie Friedman, President, Nexion Travel Group
We all know the well-known saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but have you heard the variation? “When life gives you lemons, make orange juice and leave the world wondering how you did it.” That is never truer than in today’s arduous environment.
Travel advisors today definitely must maintain a positive, can-do attitude in the face of adversity, but they’re going to need a little more than lemonade to turn those lemons into something good. It will take a combination of optimism, hard work, excellence and thinking outside the box to prevail in this ‘new normal.’ Do the unexpected, the impossible! Focus on solutions. It’s all about resilience, flexibility and adaptability.
We are now having to deal with change like never before. On the surface, that change may not seem positive. Video chats and Zoom meetings are replacing face-to-face contact. Dining room tables have become office environments. The day-to-day camaraderie once taken for granted is often limited to those who live in the same household. Anticipated in-person events are being forced to cancel or adapt to a virtual format. These are just a few of the impacts that cross many industries and not just the travel industry.
Some trades will ramp up faster than the travel industry. Businesses, such as local restaurants, have found ways to adapt by operating differently to protect revenue. The ones that have been successful are adjusting their offerings to identify high-need products.
For example, at Nexion Travel Group’s sister company, Travel Leaders Corporate, advisors are showing innovation by helping New York residents to schedule COVID-19 testing. These highly skilled customer service professionals wanted to find additional ways to assist during this pandemic when business travel slowed considerably. By temporarily adjusting their business model and utilizing their talents and skillsets, they have been able to stay employed and help with a needed service at the same time.
So, what do all these change mean for us in the travel industry? What are some ways to be resilient, flexible and adaptable and turn those lemons into orange juice? How can we not only survive but excel? Let me share a few ideas to get you thinking outside the box.
Making adjustments. Many travel advisors are taking a hard look at what they’re selling and adjusting where appropriate. Advisors who specialize in ocean cruises, for example, may be looking to diversify to attract customers who are looking for different vacation experiences. I hear from a lot of you who are researching domestic vacation options, since many predict domestic travel will open first. Clients are ready to take vacations, so that is very good news!
Adopting new practices. Did you ever think six months ago that you’d become a video conferencing wizard? Some of the habits you’ve developed in recent months could and should stick when the economy fully opens again. If you’re a home-based independent advisor, you can rely more on new technologies you’ve learned for face-to-face contact not only now but in the future, too.
Be creative to find different ways to connect with your customers. Engage them by using various social media and videos to get clients dreaming about travel again. Take advantage of your host agency’s or consortia’s marketing resources to stimulate that dreaming stage and turn it into future bookings.
Plus, be sure to look at other things you’ve learned that may be new and determine how you can implement them into your business to connect with people and promote travel.
Learning and connecting more. Many supplier partners are using one-on-one video chatting for business development and training. Networks of advisors are connecting more often. The travel community is leaning on each other and offering reassurance to pick each other up. We are all becoming creative in how we use virtual training options and finding new ways to stay connected with colleagues, customers and suppliers. Even though we’re dealing with A LOT of change, the fact is we’re connecting with people more than ever. These new habits have even brought many of you closer than when meeting face to face.
In addition, for some agency owners, our new world has revealed new ways to operate business. Those who previously believed a storefront agency was the only way to thrive are now realizing that working from home may be a lower cost option that can still produce results.
So, I encourage each of you to stop and think about your ‘new normal’ today and identify how you can adapt your business now as well as when travel returns. A quote from one of my favorite books, Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers: “Staying ahead of change means getting rid of sacred cows, even if that calls for risk and standing up to fear.”
I challenge you to think differently. Do something differently. Look at other perspectives, whether it’s diversifying your business, changing how you interact and market to your customers or adjusting business operations. Look at this time of a gazillion lemons as an opportunity to adapt and shine. You’ll really get people wondering how you did it! (And feel free to throw a little vodka in on those especially rough days – you’ve earned it!)