Keeping clients engaged during COVID has been challenging, to say the least.
But Vision Travel has found success with its online events, especially its Dream Away program.
When you successfully engage over 3,000 travel advisors and their clients in a single event, chances are you are on to a good thing, says the retail travel organization.
“We never stopped communicating – and the result is clients who are staying engaged with their travel advisors, even if the topic isn’t always travel,” says Stephen Smith, Toronto-based vice president, leisure marketing at Direct Travel.
Smith says that Direct Travel and its Canadian retail leisure division Vision Travel have found that constant dialogue has been just the ticket. Including some show-stopping visuals from around the world doesn’t hurt either.
“Now more than ever we recognize that client engagement is at the heart of our business,” adds Smith.
Direct/Vision’s initiatives have included personalized communications from the travel advisor to the client, and because engagement data is shared with advisors, they can learn which clients are interested in hearing about special offers and which ones need a more conservative approach.
As Smith points out, the shared insights are effectively an ice-breaker: a great excuse to get in touch with past clients and let you know you are thinking of them.
He and the rest of the leadership team in the leisure division also host weekly Town Hall meetings with advisors, including employees and independent travel advisors. “We always remind our advisors to keep talking travel with their clients – and because many retailers have ‘gone silent’ we are able to help them stand out and even acquire new clients,” he says.
The Dream Away program, both live on Zoom and through Facebook live, has been the flagship of Direct’s marketing for almost a year. The frequent virtual events for advisors and their clients feature strategic partners in destination. Locations have ranged from New Zealand to Peru, and from Australia to Scotland.
A live cooking class with Oceania executive chef Franck Garanger near Paris, and a safari with African Travel – live from a private game reserve in South Africa, just as the sun was setting – proved especially popular.
And they have been effective. “Our Dream Away in May 2020 with AmaWaterways on the Evolution of River Cruising resulted in 10 bookings within 24 hours, making us realize that some clients were eager to get their vacations on the books so they have something to look forward to,” says Rene Schneeberger, vice president, leisure supplier management at Direct Travel.
“People have never stopped wanting to travel – they are just booking a little further into the future,” adds Smith.
“I sold a Golden Circle Rocky Mountaineer trip immediately after my clients saw the Dream Away live from onboard the train,” says Vision’s Wendy Hearn-Anderson, based in Stratford, ON. “Our marketing initiatives throughout the pandemic have definitely been instrumental in driving inquiries.“