Friday, August 29, 2014

Tips for Managing Group Travel Expectations

The Huffington Post published an article recently with the most overrated travel destinations as chosen by its readers. We here at FLG think all of these places have their merits but do agree that the sales pitch of some destinations can be much more enticing than the reality. We all know that when anyone is trying to sell something, they only show you the good parts. That's the way sales works, right? The key is managing expectations.

So what does this mean? It means that, when helping your client choose a destination, you need to be aware of the perceptions of a specific location and understand that they may not be accurate or the same as what you know. Ignoring these details will make for a very disappointed client. Sell the good stuff, definitely, but be honest about the reality too. In the long run, everyone is happier.

Um, is this really the beach?
Here are a few of FLG's tips for managing expectations:

- Be honest about a location and tell them about possible pitfalls or unpleasantries. For many, a place like the Caribbean sounds very exotic (and it IS beautiful) but the cruise stops can be dirty, touristy and crime-ridden. Don't gloss over the fact that many airports in the Caribbean aren't air conditioned and your people could spend some time sweltering in line. Be sure to mention the sheer distance between the Vegas hotels or that most food there is considerably more expensive than a $2 steak dinner. While we may know these facts and take them as a given, many people who do not spend their time traveling do not.

- It's estimated that nearly 30% of flights are delayed or cancelled. It can get even higher when you consider the airline or airport (I'm looking at you ORD). Remind your clients about the importance of choosing higher-quality airlines for their group travel because they have Inline Agreements.

- Our CEO, Sandi Daniel, recently said: "If budgets don't move, then expectations have to." Pretty good advice. Many clients have relatively the same budget they had five years ago. In the post-AIG, recession-ridden world, many luxury hotels were offering bargain basement pricing just to get people in the door. In 2014, you just can't get the same deals anymore. Simply put, without a bigger budget in 2015 (and beyond), the hotel options are just not going to be the same 5-star quality they enjoyed so inexpensively in 2010.

- Really explain the difference between run-of-house, "garden" or "lagoon" view, ocean view and ocean front. You'd be surprised how many people don't understand.

- Be aware of the customs, holidays and culture of the areas/countries that you are considering and be prepared to explain them.

- Group rates for hotels and airlines are not the same as what you find on Kayak or Expedia. They are often different because of the sheer size of the group. This can make the rates higher or lower, depending on the season and occupancy at the time of booking. Explaining this fun fact is one of the hardest things in the group travel world but it's pretty darn important.

- Be careful to explain the details of hotel and air attrition/utilization clauses. I cannot stress this enough. It is absolutely vital to managing their budgetary expectations.

In short, clients don't always know things that travel professionals take for granted. Making sure everyone is on the same page is the key to a happy client and a saner you.

- Anjee Sorge