I think it was probably about 30 kilometres into my recent holiday that I stopped, looked out over the sparkling Mediterranean and said out loud: “So … am I totally insane?”
Yes, if only temporarily. I was on the six-day self-guided Catalan Classic Tour with Exodus, a 100 kilometre hike/walk along into the Costa Brava and along the Spanish coast.
I was prepared – way prepared, I thought – but there were times I was pretty pooped, pretty sweaty and in general thinking a five-star cruise may have been a better choice. But you know what? At the end of the trip I was so proud of myself and had so much to talk about – even more than had I taken that cruise. But more than once along those pathways I caught myself thinking what a disaster it could have been.
Much about travel these days is ‘The Experience’. Trend watchers tell us that experiential travel is where it’s at. If you have a client who’s gung-ho to get out there, be sure to ask the right questions about what they want from their holiday. In my case, I was lucky: thanks to Exodus’ excellent trip notes I was prepared both physically and equipment-wise, including a rented cell phone.
Some of the most important questions you can ask are: What are you hoping to get out of this vacation? What did you like about your last vacation – and what did you hate? Close your eyes and describe your perfect day to me. You mentioned you’d like to take some cooking classes on your holiday … are you thinking about a couple of mornings or really intense, all-day learning? You said a cycling holiday, may I ask how much cycling you do now? Daily or when you can fit it in on a weekend? Are you OK being outside in all weathers?
You’d be amazed how much you can learn. A great example comes from Pat Rochon who now heads up Vision Voyages Travel’s Active Travel division. Lots of people go to Africa because they want to see the wildlife. But how much wildlife do they actually want to see? After five straight days of game drives, they may have had their fill of zebras.
A great way to learn about your customer is to visit them in their home. They’ll probably be thrilled that you are taking the time to go there personally, but – especially as a home-based agent without a store-front location – you have a perfectly legitimate excuse to visit them on their own turf. Their neighbourhood, their lifestyle (How big a home? What car’s in the driveway? Is their furnishing style austere or eclectic?) and even how they dress can give you a great insight into how much pampering they may want on holiday, despite their expression of interest in a very down-to-earth experience.
Don’t forget to tell them why you’re asking all those questions. A small investment of their time may pay off big when you plan the perfect holiday – for them.