By Steve Gillick
It’s conundrum time. One of your long time clients has come to the realization that holidays are more meaningful and enjoyable when she pursues activities and accommodations that discourage cell phone and computer usage while at the same time encouraging interactivity with the sounds of nature (bird calls, breezes, oceans) and with local enterprises (weaving, farming, fishing, markets). She approaches you to see how supportive you will be for her future travels. Listening to birds and breezes is not really your cup of tea. Do you really want to pursue this? What to do…what to do?
Ditch, Dig, Dive, Poll and Probe. ‘One-off’ customized tours can be extremely time consuming to put together, and unless they attract sufficient revenue to grow and sustain your business, they may not really be worth the effort. Decisions that affect your bottom line must be relegated to “business” and not “emotion.” Therefore ditch the emotion and start digging for answers.
To test the feasibility of any travel trend or niche interest you need to dive into your database and poll your past, current and future clients. If you have had the foresight to establish a client information protocol for your business, then you may already have the information on hand. The section dedicated to “client needs and wishes” or “I’d love to do these activities if only I knew how,” should provide a wealth of valuable information.
Customer servicing your clients is a daily activity. Build revenue growth questions into every conversation. “Mrs. Johnson… when you were in St. Lucia, did you see or hear about any activities that you would want to do on a return trip to the island or on any other holidays?” She responds by saying “yes we saw the Pitons and were fascinated. I would love to see more natural wonders on future trips.” The door is open for you to probe to find out what is the extent of her interest: Observe them? Or perhaps photograph, horseback ride, climb, fly over, ski, snowboard or sand board down them?
Anything you can do… and the rest of that song lyric is “I can do better”
Check out what the competition is doing. Google “key words” to find out if anyone is doing the kind of special interest activities or tours that your clients want. If someone else is doing them, find out if is this part of an overall specialty (e.g. adventure tours, or nature tours) or is the competition actually centering their business around the activity in question. Chances are it is the former, and they are now creating niches within niches, something referred to as “super specialization.” In fact it has nothing to do with being “super,”as much as it has everything to do with being current and creative while responding to client needs. You can do it too… and you can do it better, just like the song.
Human Travel Apps. We all know about computer apps. There are hundreds of thousands available to do everything from finding a washroom in Rome, to learning the name of a song you hear in a café in Buenos Aires. Taking the same approach to knowledge-by-app, savvy travel consultants contact real, live human beings to provide incredibly in-depth information about a destination or an activity. These are the people you meet on Fam trips or on your personal travels. You were impressed with their knowledge, collected their business card, gave them your card and established a relationship whereby you bring them business and they help you to generate ideas to create business opportunities. And these human travel apps are also great sources off of which to bounce ideas. Regarding the client who wants to unplug from cell phones and computers: do your local contacts know about places or activities that accommodate these needs? Is this a popular request from travelers? Are other companies working in these areas? Is this a serious travel trend or a once-in-a-blue-moon request? Work with your human apps to test the strength of new ideas.
‘Excel’-erate your Thoughts. Excel spread sheets (or similar) will help you plot your ideas. Businesses are in business to stay in business. You need to project the bottom line on any business adventure to see if it’s feasible. If you create a new specialty, how many clients are needed to sustain the business? What is the cost of acquiring new clients? What are the conditions needed for the specialty to blossom? What is the price threshold that clients can bear? This is where you decide if the niche or trend is something worth pursuing as a sole specialty, a niche within a niche, a once every year special event, or something that you can build into a tour that already exists.
Ponder before you Pounce. In other words, don’t jump into things because they sound irresistible at the present time. Think about all the implications including the financials, your client needs and long term goals. Can you offer ceviche-preparation tours to Central and South America and live on this alone, or is it more sensible to take a step or two back and specialize in Latin America land trips or cruises or international culinary tours, on which your clients will inevitably encounter ceviche (a delectable dish of raw fish marinated in citrus juices).
Travel multi-tasking describes how many travelers in all generations, engage with their holidays. There are so many things to experience and so many places to visit, and they want to do it all! Make note of all the suggestions and all the special interest ideas and weigh each one to see if and how it might fit into your book of business