What to do when clients aren't traveling: 4 easy ways to stay in touch

COVID-19's caused an economic downturn that affects travel agents everywhere -- here's how those in the field are managing their client relationships.
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While travel plans have slowed due to COVID-19, it’s important to stay in touch with clients so when things get back to normal, you’re the first person they call. By maintaining touches with your clients you can stay at the front of their mind, and reassure them with your expertise on all things travel related.

Clients may be stuck at home for now, but when they’re able, your clients will want to get back out into the world. You can leverage this time at home to get clients dreaming about the next getaway, and providing them with updates on travel policies to reassure them that you will always be the professional they can turn to.

Use email marketing to stay in front of clients.

Email marketing is a great way to maintain your relationship with your clients. With clients stuck at home and limiting travel in the future, you can use email marketing to stay in front of your clients. By sending out email campaigns you can get clients to start thinking about where they want to go when restrictions are lifted.

“My #1 tip is to pivot your business. Stay front of mind with your current clients and continue to stay relevant. While no one can travel now, the desire for travel is not gone and will come back with a vengeance when we all move about again. Post inspirational photos and virtual trips on social media and in communications to clients. When they're ready to book, they'll remember you and call you first. I think many people have learned the lesson that using an experienced travel professional is paramount!”

- Karan Morrow, Where 2 Next Travel

You can also use email marketing to create a mental oasis for clients who might be getting a little stir-crazy. Consider including fun stories or favorite travel locations to help remind clients of trips they’ve booked with you in the past, and to get them thinking about that dream vacation destination.

“Send out a ‘mental vacations’ email with some pictures and trip plans so that your clients can take a mental break from the whole situation and perhaps start thinking about future travel plans with you too!”

- Danielle Belyeu, Catching the Sun travel

You can also turn email marketing into a more interactive experience by including pictures of exotic locations to see if your clients can guess where the picture was taken, and offering rewards for those who guess correctly. Adding a little levity and fun to your emails can help lighten the mood, while also exposing clients to new vacation destinations.

Utilize social media platforms for exposure.

You can stay in front of your clients on social media with regular posts, but many social media platforms also offer options for video and live interactions. Now is a great time to leverage that capability to get in front of current clients, and to reach out to potential clients.

You can use Facebook live or other tools to create a live Q&A session to alleviate questions about travel, and show your audience that you are the professional they should book with. As Caroline Joyner of Not Just Travel explains,

“I would mainly be calling firstly all clients who have a holiday booked this year regularly, and then I would be finding a reason to call all other clients even if they don’t have something booked. I would tell them that if they are thinking about 2021 now is a great time to book as all the tour operators are offering amazing flexible terms.

Secondly I would be publishing lots of “escapism” blogs about destinations to inspire people and also daily inspirational facebook posts to keep my audience hot.

Thirdly I would be doing Facebook live Travel Clinics where people can ask questions about any holiday booked – not just through me.”

Your clients aren’t the only ones with questions about travel, and by offering a live Q&A session you can offer your expertise to a broader base. That exposure can help show potential clients why it’s important to book with a professional, and you can reassure clients that you’re staying abreast of ongoing changes related to travel and travel safety.

Set follow up reminders now.

While many clients may have been forced to cancel trips, that doesn’t mean that their desire to make that trip has gone away. As travel restrictions are slowly lifted, clients are likely to consider re-booking their trip and determining what new timeline will work for that dream vacation.

You can stay in front of those bookings by setting your follow up reminders now, both to stay on top of refunds and credits from the cancelled trip, and to make sure you reach out as soon as possible to get your clients booking again.

“#1 tip is to keep very good records on what is canceling, status of refunds/credits on each piece of the trip and reminders now for the future to follow up with those clients so that they can rebook their trips. I think good recordkeeping now is essential.”

- Heather Parker, Bliss Travel Experiences

You may also have clients with trips in the future that haven’t been canceled yet, and they’ll still need to make upcoming payments. It’s important to keep close track of those dates and keep an eye on restrictions and cancellation policies as their travel dates approach.

“I'm keeping an eye on my calendar...for upcoming payments that are due and people that are scheduled to depart. Just to make sure that payments for future travel (that isn't cancelled...yet) aren't overlooked in the commotion and that if people are scheduled to depart in the next week or two, that their travel gets cancelled to take advantage of cancellation promotions offered by cruise lines and tour operators.”

- Linda O’Brien, The Travel Gals

Reminders are important for staying on top of important dates, and can help you make sure you’re the one reaching out to clients so they never feel lost in the shuffle. You can also include details about any cancellation promotions in your reminders, so when the time comes for your clients to rebook, you have the details about what they’re getting at hand.

Stay on top of important cruise/airline/hotel policy changes.

The travel industry has experienced a lot of changes recently, and as a result many travel businesses are changing policies related to rebooking and cancellations. By staying on top of these changes you can remind your clients of your expertise, and help them take advantage of special deals available now.

Harry Roscoe with Travel with Harry recommends proactively rebooking cancelled trips at a discount:

“When I have groups that look like they may be in jeopardy over the next six months to 12 months, I book a new group reservation for a year and a half or more out. This gives me the ability to just move my passengers into the new group instead of canceling because the cruise lines are giving 125% credits.

For example, I have a group going to the Mediterranean in October. I have booked the same cruise as a group in May as a back up. We have up to 30 days prior to the cruise to cancel in October. If we cancel the cruise line is going to give us 125% future cruise credit. It almost benefits my passengers if this gets canceled and we rebook it on the May sailing.”

Clients may be a little hesitant to book, but by sharing great options under new terms and offering clear back-up plans you can help get clients back out in the world. Your knowledge of the intricate details of cancellation and rebooking policies will solidify your position as the only professional they want to work with.

With travel plans temporarily on hold, take this time to revamp your marketing efforts and stay in front of clients. By providing mental vacation emails, live Q&A sessions, and following up as new policies and deals become available, you can prime your clients to book as restrictions are lifted.

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