Written By: Jesse Morris, Owner – We Book Travel, LLC
Something that has surprised me when I got started is how impactful the media can be on our industry. Bad publicity is inevitable but lately there have been a significant number of events that we have needed to address with potential clients. Norovirus, ships colliding with a dock, ships colliding with each other, freak weather causing a ship to be evacuated, quarantining of a ship due to Measles, environmental impact of cruise ships, airplanes being grounded due to safety concern, all-inclusive resorts catching fire, the ports in Cuba being forbidden by US law and so much more. All of this was in the last few months. Keep going back and you will find more events that will concern clients and possibly keep them from choosing a particular vacation.
The media reports on events that do not happen often. If they happened every day it wouldn’t be newsworthy. Ever heard the news media lead with “Today in the Bahamas, hundreds of people were sunburnt.”? Of course not, that’s an everyday occurrence and something that people should know to prepare for and how to avoid. When something rare happens that becomes a hot item. The news media makes other countries sound a lot less safe than they really are because that’s what sells the news.
We have to be prepared to discuss these concerns with our clients. Take norovirus as an example. According to the Centers for Disease Control from 2008-2014 out of the 74 million cruise ship passengers only 129,678 met the case definitions for acute gastrointestinal illness and only 10% of those could be considered Norovirus (6 years, less than 13,000 cases). In the US between 19 and 21 million people get sick with Norovirus each year. Logically it seems that this isn’t really anything to be worried about aboard a cruise ship by comparison. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not think logically when it comes to Norovirus. As travel advisors we have to be armed with facts to overcome the perception that our clients have. These perceptions are fed by media reporting.
It is our job to make our clients feel safe and overcome irrational thought. At the same time, we cannot promise things that are outside our control. The recent events in the Dominican Republic are a perfect example. Statistics show that the potential for violent crime is far higher at home than in the Caribbean. The media doesn’t lead their stories with this fact. They lead with the story that will draw the most eyes. When your client asks if the Dominican Republic is safe it would be a mistake to tell them that they have nothing to worry about. This minimizes their fears. When clients ask about safety, security, health or any other item they have seen in the news, what they are really asking is for reassurance.
It’s very easy for people on vacation to let down their natural defenses. Normally I would never walk alone in a dark place, not knowing exactly where I was going. On vacation people tend to do just that. It’s a good best practice to gently remind our clients how to be safe and secure when traveling. I recommend providing your clients with a helpful list of things to keep in mind while traveling. Things like how to avoid looking like a tourist, ways to minimize pick pocketing risk, using hand sanitizer and washing hands regularly, and keeping your valuables safe are all great topics.
The top of my list is travel insurance. People have homeowners, life, health, dental and even insurance to protect their phone if it breaks. How often have you been told “I don’t need travel insurance?” I never want to scare my clients but at the same time I would be negligent if I didn’t share with them the reasons why insurance is so important and how they would be impacted if they didn’t have it.
I see these news stories as opportunities to educate my clients and help them to make the choices for their vacations that make them feel safe and comfortable. We recommend using a travel agent because we help eliminate the worry from vacation planning. This includes helping them select vacations that set their minds at ease when it comes to all the media reporting. If you know an objection or concern could exist, you should be prepared to respond to it. These events are all things our clients will ask about. How will you respond?
How do you help clients overcome their fears and feel safe while on vacation? I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.