Hi, my name is Christy Mahon. I have owned a Dream Vacations travel agency franchise in New Jersey since 2014. You can learn more about me at www.EscapeArtistHolidays.com. I’m happy to share my story of marketing vacations during the COVID summer (and beyond).
My instinct regarding marketing was not to promote sales and offers, but rather to inspire people to dream big for when they’re ready to travel again. Now is an excellent time to leverage online presentations because they have become so mainstream, that everyone is comfortable using them. I created a series of weekly online presentations, #WeWillTravelAgainEvents, as a way for me to personally be in front of people. As service providers who work with clients on a one-on-one basis, establishing rapport and expertise is critical to being top-of-mind at the moment of opportunity.
Everyone has a bucket list, and with travel being paused, there’s no better time to capture people’s imagination. I’m focusing on destinations and experiential travel as a source of inspiration, and when needed, I invite a well-suited supplier to co-host. For example: Princess for cruise tours to Alaska, Celebrity to discuss cruising the Galapagos, and Globus to share touring US National Parks.
I am promoting #WeWillTravelAgainEvents through various channels (social media, emails, local community forums, etc.) and leveraging free tools to their best advantage — only paying for “premium” versions when necessary. Capturing new prospects is a win for this home-based agency; as well as engagement with “quiet” prospects who have been receiving my emails for years but haven’t acted upon them.
This is a soft-sell strategy; that’s what I’m comfortable within this environment. Follow-up is key and noting people’s interest for target marketing later will be valuable down the road. It’s a long-game — not a quick fix for my business. My objective is to plant seeds now and reap the rewards in 2021-2022.
As such, perseverance is key. Building a following and word of mouth has begun to show results. Following a recent event featuring travel to Italy, I was approached by an attendee who runs an Italian-American business association. We’re developing a partnership in which I will be the group’s travel advisor for their annual trips to Italy. Hosting the presentation highlighted my expertise, passion, and professionalism which gave the organization confidence to entrust me with this endeavor.
My advice for agents is this: take what you’re most comfortable doing from a marketing perspective and ramp it up. Whether it’s a topic or an approach, leverage your strengths. I’m very comfortable in front of a crowd, talking about great destinations and experiential travel; bringing people into the conversation. I’m playing to my own strengths. Start with what you know, stretch yourself as you go, and build from there.