When European countries began announcing dates they would reopen to U.S. travelers, Daniela Harrison's phone began to ring. Harrison, an advisor with Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, Ariz., has been busy booking Italy, Greece and river cruises. One couple even traveled to Italy within mere weeks of booking; others plan to travel later this year or next.
But, for many others, Europe's reopening has left them with more questions than answers, and clients traveling close in are beginning to balk.
So, how did Harrison do it? It was a mix of solid marketing tactics and good, old-fashioned phone calls.
Sharing the good news
In addition to her role as an advisor, Harrison is Avenues of the World Travel's director of marketing. She shared the Signature Travel Network agency's approach with me last week.
"We lined up the border opening announcements with email newsletters of these announcements, paired with available cruise offers or Signature preferred hotel offers, and sent it to our entire database," she said. "Those have directly translated into bookings."
The newsletters featured bright, cheerful colors and graphics to catch readers' attention. Every image was linked to a bookable offer
"We have a great opening and click-through rate and had directly relatable phone calls within a day or two of sending the newsletters," Harrison said.
Avenues of the World also highlighted a newly booked trip every day via its social media accounts, raising awareness among followers of what's opening.
"For my own personal clients, I have been working in reverse, calling the suppliers to secure space and then telling my clients I have an option for them to go to France, Italy, Portugal, Greece this summer," she said.
It's worked well: Four out of five people she's called with a specific offer have taken her up on it. She did offer one caveat in that she knows these particular clients very well and knows what they'd like; it likely wouldn't work as well otherwise.
Working backward has several advantages. First, Harrison said, pent-up demand is making it difficult to secure space for clients. This way, she already has space, and there is no disappointment if they get excited but nothing is available. Second, calling to talk to someone about a potential trip in the near future is much more pleasant than calls earlier in the pandemic informing clients their trips were canceled.
"Clients that have booked have not been shy about telling everyone they know that they are traveling soon and where to," she added. "Many are inviting friends and family to join them now. With all of these efforts combined, we have definitely seen a higher demand for travel overall these past few weeks."
Consortia are a good resource, as they are assisting travel advisors by providing information on the ever-changing situations as borders begin to reopen.
Karryn Christopher, executive vice president of marketing and preferred partnerships at Signature Travel Network, said, "Timely access to simplified details continues to be key to helping advisors manage the influx of changes and new information."
Signature is proactively reaching out to members to spotlight tools to help them, like Sherpa, which aggregates restrictions from every country. The content is updated daily. Advisors receive emails from Signature on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; agency owners get emails once a week, as well. Daily changes and updates are placed on member- and owner-only Facebook pages and on SigNet, Signature's intranet.
Virtuoso is engaging in a similar push of information to members as travel regulations change daily.
The consortium recently launched the BeWise Travel Entry Guide, available on Virtuoso.com, according to Misty Belles, managing director of global public relations. It "offers the latest travel entry regulations, including specific health and safety rules," Belles said. Advisors also have access to additional information, including partner updates, links and news feeds about what's going on globally.