TORONTO — Steve Crowhurst is asking the same question that’s on the minds of many in this industry: “Will the travel trade ever get a break?”
First COVID, and now war: “Just another day at the agency,” says Crowhurst, a leading travel industry marketing expert and a frequent contributor to Travelweek’s series of articles about marketing travel during these roller coaster times. Crowhurst has written many e-guides focusing on marketing ideas for travel agents, available at sellingtravel.net.
There was good news earlier this week, with news about the easing of the cruise travel advisory. And since Feb. 28 Canada’s downgraded border measures have more clients in the mood to get away after two years of the pandemic. However Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused tensions to skyrocket in Eastern Europe and beyond.
“What’s a travel seller to do? Where should they spend their marketing fund, how much, when and what on?” says Crowhurst.
He tells Travelweek that in these days of mixed emotions about travel’s re-start, travel advisors are seeing two new types of client.
“As Canada’s return rules remain, including the pre-arrival COVID-19 test requirement, returning home from abroad can still be complicated and costly. The situation has produced two additional customer profiles: The ‘Let’s GO!’ and the ‘Hell NO!’” says Crowhurst.
He has tips for marketing to both the ‘Let’s GO!’ and the ‘Hell NO!’ groups, plus some words of advice for travel sellers in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
THE ‘LET’S GO!’ CLIENTS
“These are probably the clients who are COVID savvy, have invested in their health and are now jabbed, boosted, ready to go, masked up and keeping their distance,” says Crowhurst. “They’ll follow the rules to get back in the air and they know they will pass the test when they return home to Canada.”
He adds: “These are probably your best clients, the ones who love to travel, leave few footprints, and view their world through their eyesight versus their iPhone. This is who you market to, to kick off your spring sales.”
To secure the Let’s GO! bookings “all you really have to do is promote how to comply with the latest COVID rules of return and also the COVID rules for where your clients are heading to,” says Crowhurst. “Just like the time you became a travel insurance expert, you now add to your knowledge base everything your clients need to know about COVID protocols. The Let’s GO! client will depend on your knowledge to ‘ease their quease’. Do that, find them the best deal for their travels, and job done.”
He urges agents to promote their COVID protocol knowledge: “For instance, rules requiring people to show a COVID-19 vaccine passport to access venues will be lifted in France on March 14.”
Crowhurst also advises agents to work their magic via video: “Get your smiling game face on, place your smartphone on a mini tripod and roll ‘em. In 60 seconds or less, tell your Let’s GO! customers how easy it is to visit the UK, Europe, South America etc., and what they’ll need to do regarding proof of COVID shots and post arrival tests and return home testing requirements. Job done. Click and post.”
He adds: “That’s pretty much it. So many countries have relaxed or about to relax their COVID rules and are now opened to welcome your clients, as long as they attend to the few requirements still in place.”
THE ‘HELL NO!’ CLIENTS
For these clients, “you have to respect their take on the current situation and help them travel to where they feel comfortable,” he says. And that’s the case whether these clients are vaccinated or non-vaccinated.
The key with these clients, as with any client, is respect, says Crowhurst. “You have to respect this customer’s concerns and in doing so, you’ll market safety and security to this customer. That means promoting staycations in North America. If the client shows signs of staycation-overload, then offer New Zealand, Australia, the Caribbean and Mexico. Likely this customer is fully vaccinated, but just wary of travelling too far afield at this time.”
Another good strategy with these clients is ‘Take Away Marketing’. “The Take Away technique is to show the Hell NO! customer what they just missed. When a customer is reluctant to travel you promote fantastic deals, but more so, you showcase the destination they have decided not to visit. The ‘take away’ is that “Ahhh…” moment when they realize they could have been laying on that beach, hiking in the Alps, or simply meeting with family overseas. Showcase what they are missing, and you might turn a vaccinated Hell NO! client into a chomping at the bit, Let’s GO! client.”
Crowhurst also has some words of advice about promoting travel in the wake of rising tensions in Eastern Europe and beyond.
“The invasion of Ukraine has caused concern right across Europe and with it comes the challenge of returning home should all-out war consume Europe,” he says. “At the moment, your clients should enjoy a lovely European vacation. However if the war in Ukraine expands beyond that country’s borders, everything could come to a grinding halt. If the war footing changes, then overnight, there will be a scramble to be evacuated.”
In addition to imparting and marketing their COVID knowledge, travel advisors must stay tuned in to the situation in Ukraine, he says. “Make sure you are up to date on your insurance vendors extraction insurance programs in case a customer needs the service.”
Now that travel is reopening, even if some restrictions are in place with pre-departure testing, and other challenges remain, Crowhurst urges agents to maximize this recovery time. “Okay, eyes to the skies. Sell those Let’s GO! and Hell NO! customers what they want and do it now!”