Some travel counselors look at a trip as a defined set of commissionable components. It may come already boxed up as a tour, or mixed and matched: an airline ticket and cruise; an airline ticket, car rental and series of hotels; an airline ticket, transfer and resort.
Other plug-ins might include insurance, day tours, shore excursions, theater tickets and limo services.
For clients, the boxed portion of the trip -- the conveyances, shelter and related details -- are certainly important, but often they have little to do with motivation for traveling. They don't spend hundreds on an airplane ticket because they love the experience of commercial aviation, especially not today. Rather, they spend thousands to relax, play, learn, bond and explore. To seek novelty, break free of their daily routine, perhaps challenge themselves, and return home the better for the experience.
Most in the travel industry understand this and work to make sure the underlying goals are accomplished between the bookends of outbound and return flights.
But is this truly where trips begin and end? Not really.
Among its more mundane but related functions, a "trip" might also involve boarding a pet, arranging for yard maintenance or shopping for sunscreen. These and other minutiae can either be a chore or part of building excitement, but industry consultant Bob Joselyn has long advocated that agents consider providing these services, for a fee, as well as thoughtful extras such as arranging for groceries or flowers to be delivered upon the client's return.
A few agents and tour operators are beginning to think even beyond these add-ons. They're beginning to look at how to tap into and support the underlying motivations for travel.
Robert Tynan has given this a lot of thought. A former recruiter of home agents for upscale host agency Admiral Travel Gallery in Sarasota, Fla., Tynan recently launched Fitness Travel Co., based in London.
Prior to his travel career, Tynan had been a certified personal trainer and consultant, and through a subcontractor, he became an adviser to Royal Caribbean International, helping shape shipboard fitness programs aboard Freedom-class ships.
His familiarity with travel and fitness started him thinking about ways to extend the boundaries of a fitness-focused trip. Fitness, more than many niche interests, is integrated into an enthusiast's lifestyle, yet there are a multitude of ways one can approach staying fit. To have a satisfying fitness vacation, Tynan believed, it would help to have participants all on the same page, so to speak, before departure, and to come up with a follow-through program to extend the trip's benefits.
"I wanted to create something that fulfilled a promise rather than to develop a tour around a location," he said. "I wanted to provide journeys in the deepest sense. To work towards successful fitness in life while seeing some of the most beautiful and exotic destinations in the world."
He conceived of vacation packages that began with three weeks of personal training before departure and another three individualized sessions upon return. Pre-departure, trainers would assess and prepare travelers; back home, the experience would be reinforced with sessions designed to integrate what was learned into their routine.
As he began to think about building a global network of trainers to provide the before-and-after services, he realized that he was also building a potential sales force. His trips are commissionable to both travel agents and fitness trainers.
His Fitness Travel Co. experiences look to be luxe and creative. Current offerings feature wellness and fitness retreats based in spas in France, Australia, Mexico, Spain and the U.K. But Tynan is also planning some unique programs: He's currently at work on a Masai warrior training project in Kenya that would incorporate Masai rituals and even symbolic initiation ceremonies into fitness tours. Another, in the planning stages, will focus on getting people in shape for their weddings.
Clearly, Tynan's intimate knowledge of fitness, training and travel helped him discover ways to lengthen his engagement with clients on both sides of "the trip."
Likewise, the success of most travel agents and tour operators rests on a foundation of deep insight into traveler behavior, often based on personal experience.
One can make a decent living selling boxed travel. But deeper client engagement and greater profitability await those who think outside the box. Email Arnie Weissmann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter.