12 May 2020 By: Jessica Wise
Who wouldn’t love to get away right now?
Hell…at this point, who wouldn’t love to simply get out of the house?
Sadly, it appears many Americans will be forced to remain housebound for the foreseeable future.
As of Tuesday, May 5th, 65% of America’s population, roughly 214 million people, remained under some form of lockdown. (Business Insider)
Meanwhile, more than 200 countries and territories worldwide have imposed measures that restrict or deter people from entering their respective borders. (CNBC)
Considering these statistics, it’s easy to understand why the future of the travel industry is in question.
What Travel Agencies Are Facing
Just last year, the travel industry was declared the second-fastest growing sector of the global economy. (WTTC)
Unfortunately, since the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. tourism revenue has dropped well below post-9/11 numbers.
“The impact on travel is six or seven times greater than the 9/11 attacks.”
Even more disheartening is the number of Americans whose livelihood is now at stake. As many as 50 million travel industry jobs may be lost in the wake of the pandemic. (Forbes)
Much of the sector’s revenue loss is due to travelers canceling vacations en masse, and their strong aversion to making future plans.
48% of Americans have already canceled their summer 2020 travel plans. (Your Mileage MayVary)48% of Americans have already canceled their summer 2020 travel plans. @YourMileageVary Click To Tweet
But, as they say, it’s not over until the fat lady sings, and the industry just might be able to turn things around if travel agencies adapt their business strategy to fit the economic climate.
Here’s how you can save your travel agency in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Early Deposits and Interest Free Payment Plans
So, your travel agency’s revenue has slowed to a trickle. In order to jump-start sales, there are two very important factors to consider.
1. Right now, money is tighter than normal for most Americans. 3 in 10 Americans have lost income due to coronavirus. About 1 in 4 have missed or expect to soon miss a bill payment, while about 1 in 5 has missed or expects to soon miss a rent or mortgage payment. (USA Today) Obviously, much of your customer base no longer has the disposable income to make large, unnecessary purchases.
2. People are afraid to travel, and they aren’t just afraid of current travel. Two-thirds of Americans say they won’t travel for at least 3 months after COVID-19 subsides. (Forbes)
I know. It’s sounding pretty bleak isn’t it?
The good news is that there is a solution to each of these problems.
Why not take early deposits and offer interest free payments on vacation packages?
Offer your customers the option to plan a trip 1-2 years in advance.
(Sidenote: By then, experts expect the virus to subside. If it doesn’t, we have a solution for that, too. We’ll get to that in a later section of the article.)
Then, allow travelers to place an initial deposit followed by interest-free monthly installments.
35% of consumers say they are more likely to buy when they can make monthly installments. (smallbiztrends)35% of consumers say they are more likely to buy when they can make monthly installments. @smallbiztrends Click To Tweet
An even more appealing solution would be to allow your customers to pay at their own pace as long as the full amount is paid within 3 months of their departure date.
Larger agencies like Liberty Travel already offer flexible payment plans with much success.
Save Your Travel Agency with Light-at-the-End-of-the-Tunnel Promotions
People are chomping at the bit to globe trot.
25% of Americans are planning a celebratory trip once the threat of the virus has passed. (Your Mileage MayVary)25% of Americans are planning a celebratory trip once the threat of the virus has passed. @YourMileageVary Click To Tweet
So, now is the time to take advantage of the wanderlust bug that has bitten us all during lockdown.
Sure, your customers may not be able to go on their dream vacation right this second.
But, by using cleverly crafted advertising and promotions, you can encourage them to plan a trip that they can look forward to.
According to a Cornell University study, the anticipation of a trip can increase a person’s happiness substantially, even more than the anticipation of acquiring something tangible, like a new car. (Forbes)
Psychology researchers, Leaf Van Boven and Laurence Ashworth, have uncovered similar findings.
“‘Our research suggests that the enjoyment people glean from anticipation might also be an important component of life satisfaction.’ Whether it’s choosing a new novel to read or planning a holiday to an exotic destination, we feel really good when we say, ‘Think about the enjoyment we’re going to have.’”
-Van Boven and Ashworth – Psychologies
Let’s face it. We could all use a little light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, and suggesting a future trip is the perfect way to grab your customers’ attention.
Re-Book Guarantee or a Money Back Guarantee
People aren’t just afraid to travel during the pandemic.
They’re also afraid of parting ways with their money.
As I mentioned in the second section of this article, many Americans currently have less disposable income. Thus, they are hesitant to make unnecessary purchases.
Unfortunately, 46% of those who already had travel plans on the books prior to the outbreak have already lost money. (Your Mileage MayVary)
In order to save your travel agency, instate a re-book guarantee or a money back guarantee in the event that a traveler’s trip is impacted by COVID-19.
It’s important to keep in mind that customers are more afraid of loss than they are motivated by gain.
In fact, a study by three psychologists in 1991 found that people are actually more afraid of losing something than they are motivated by gaining something of equivalent value. This fear is a powerful motivating factor. (Business2Community)
An offer of free re-booking or money back will give your customers peace of mind they need to take the plunge.
Save Your Travel Agency by Accepting Virtual Bookings
If your business is like most travel agencies, your customers plan their vacations with you over the phone or in-person.
With in-person non-essential sales being prohibited, now is the time to offer an additional, yet safe avenue of communication to your customers.
So, take your business interactions online! That’s where the money is!
As of March 2020, 23% of Americans said that their frequency of purchasing goods online had increased compared to one month previously. (Statista)
To field the additional inquiries, consider adding live chat service agents to your website. This option will not only be convenient and safe for your potential clients, but it will also be a cost effective solution for your business.
Implementing 24/7 live chat agents on your website is up to 50x cheaper than hiring a full-time employee. Plus, 86% of customers are more likely to purchase when companies make it easy for them to do so. (Business2Community)
Live chat agents can answer your customers’ questions and take reservations in real-time around the clock.
Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Measures
No matter what business you are in, unprecedented times call for thinking outside the box.
Don’t lose heart and don’t be afraid to get creative.
In one way or another, everyone is on the same journey, trying to find a way through the pandemic.
Hopefully, that journey ends with Mai Tais and a little ocean breeze for us all.