TORONTO — Luxury travel advisor Jennifer Gaskell started her career in retail travel just as the pandemic hit.
While it wasn’t the most auspicious time to break into the travel industry, Gaskell – with Oakville, ON-based Pink Palm Travel by TPI – made the most of a very challenging situation.
In this Q&A, Gaskell shares how she stayed in touch with clients during the pandemic, her marketing do’s and don’ts, and why she’s a big fan of client testimonials.
Q: How long have you been a travel advisor and have you always been an independent?
Gaskell: “I have been a travel advisor for two years and have been home-based/independent since the beginning of my career in travel.”
Q: What were some strategies you used to keep connections with your clients during the pandemic?
Gaskell: “Zoom events, newsletters, social media and livestream video. My intention was to keep lines of communication open so that clients felt comfortable with asking questions about the changing travel landscape.”
Q: Now that travel is reopening, are you getting more inquiries, and what’s in demand?
Gaskell: “All-inclusive packages are in high demand. Clients want a trip where everything is taken care of for them so they can relax and soak up the sun. I even have clients who are planning more than one trip at a time – to make up for the last two years!
“My clients are willing to spend more right now for the comfort and security of a brand like Sandals, where trip insurance is included and complimentary COVID testing is done on resort.”
Q: In recent years travel advisors have learned about the power of having a presence in the media, as a voice of experience in the travel industry. You recently sent out a press release highlighting the advantages of booking with travel advisors. Has this strategy been effective for you, and what are some marketing do’s and don’ts you’ve learned along the way?
Gaskell: “My background is in public relations, so writing press releases is something that I’ve become accustomed to. What I like about press releases is that you can get creative and tell a story.
“If you decide to reach out to the media, make sure you have an interesting angle for your story to give the reporter you’re pitching something to write about. That’s why I include client quotes (with permission) in my news releases where appropriate. It’s not necessarily about being a testimonial, it’s part of the storytelling. When the media has the story nicely laid out for them, it’s much easier for them to go with the story!
“In terms of marketing do’s and don’ts…
- DO stay focused with a marketing and communications plan. Ensure that your marketing efforts all tie back to your original goals.
- DON’T be shy to go live! I kickstarted my business by going live on Instagram – it inspired people to connect with me and book their own vacations!
- DO stay on topic. I primarily sell Sandals and Beaches resorts and luxury beach vacations. So, it doesn’t make sense for me to be posting on social media about Alaskan cruises.
- DON’T feel like you have to show up everywhere online. Use marketing channels where your audiences are.
- DO automate marketing tasks to make your life easier. That could look like setting up email sequences or using social media planner apps to post to multiple platforms at once (I love Planoly).
Q: Many agents may want to use client testimonials, but they worry their clients would find the request intrusive. What do you find is the best way to ask clients for testimonials? Are they a powerful tool?
Gaskell: “Client testimonials are so powerful. While I will request testimonials more passively from all clients, requesting a testimonial for a specific purpose – like a press release or other marketing asset – can be daunting. First, identify who your biggest fan is. Who is the client that sings your praises without you having to ask for the testimonial? That is who you ask. Let them know that you want to celebrate your relationship with them – this is a great way to do that. It never hurts to send over a bottle of wine after!”