When you know your customers well enough to celebrate breakups with them

This is a viewpoint from Karen Kent, chief marketing officer at Flight Centre USA Leisure Brands.

Recently, while exploring the landscape and patterns of group travel, Liberty Travel cited what most would deem an unlikely trend, the post-divorce getaway. Called the “Start-Anew-Moon,” at first glance people might chuckle or think it seems a bit odd to celebrate such an occasion. On second glance, it really makes perfect sense. It’s a new chapter of someone’s life and travel helps to start this journey on a refreshed foot.

So close you can celebrate The Big D

Knowing your clients goes beyond how they like to travel or where they like to go. Suggesting a “Start-Anew-Moon” or multi-generational trip for example, means an agent needs to know where their customers are at in life. When travel consultants are in long-standing relationships with clients they know when something significant is happening in their lives, just as a friend or colleague would.

Travel agents become part of customers’ “networks,” often feeling like more of a personal connection rather than a professional one. Agents are in the vacation business and by being part of someone’s vacation planning process, they are on the “fun” side of the equation. Who doesn’t want to be on the bright side? And there is even a bright side when it comes to breakups.

Just as a honeymoon celebrates the start of a marriage and a babymoon marks the first time a couple will travel as a soon-to-be party of three, the Start-Anew-Moon recognizes the newfound freedom and lifestyle of the recently single-again set. What’s more important than “naming” this trend, and the buzz that has surrounded it. is the lesson in what this means about the customer relationship – you know your customers well enough to celebrate a breakup with them.

Many people first use a travel agent for a big trip, such as a honeymoon. Seasoned travel professionals take this opportunity to forge a lasting relationship with customers, with this being the first of a lifetime of trips they plan for them.

The agent-client lifecycle is often based on milestone events or annual trips – the first-year anniversary escape to the babymoon, family vacations, a significant birthday, multi-generational trips, reunions and vow renewals are a few examples. These trips are celebratory in nature and the precursor to a new chapter in life, marked with a trip. A divorce should be no different.

For an agent to be able to plan – or suggest – a post-divorce trip requires a trusting relationship to exist with the client (no pun intended considering the client is no longer “in” a relationship). In some cases agents are privy to the timing of proceedings. It is not uncommon for a soon-to-be divorcee to let his/her travel consultant know the ink on the papers will dry the first week in October; which means the Start-Anew-Moon can be booked for the following week. (Just make sure they don’t change their name so fast; you want to be sure it matches their passport).

Social media made me do it

Technology – and specifically social media –  is part of this scenario.. Travel agents have more and more ways to enrich their long-standing customer relationships in today’s social sharing environment. With the increased usage of social media, agents are able to stay connected to what’s happening in life between trips (following them on Instagram, possibly being Facebook friends, etc.). It gives travel professionals additional reasons and ways to “connect” with clients and check-in to say hello (which in turn makes them think, “I need to plan another vacation”).

Vacation posts are the ultimate in the online bragging rights world. The “look-at-what-I-did, look-at-where-I-ate, look-at-my-view” is taken to a whole different level when you leave your home surroundings. The roll-your-eyes-at-what-she-ate-for-breakfast post all of a sudden gets a “like” when those over-easy eggs with fruit cut into florets are in a San Francisco boutique hotel or a resort in St. Lucia.

Specific to the post-divorce set, these social media shares say more than “look at where I am”. It is “look at how I am doing”. Yes, I am fine. In fact I am better than fine; I am celebrating and embracing this next chapter. Bonus points: If you are still friends with the ex I hope you screenshot and send this to him.

It is as if you are here – you virtually are

I believe today’s generation are less responsive to the “a pictures is worth a thousand words” analogy. Because, of course, there are now videos. And “live” social media experiences. And virtual reality (VR).

Liberty Travel has long produced glossy brochures because of the power of pictures. Seeing an image of a couple or family you can relate to,  in the setting you are considering for your next trip, is powerful. While the brochures still do have a very important place on travel agents’ desks and on our website, there are so many more ways to paint the picture these days. 360 Experience and virtual reality are becoming increasingly popular as a way to “experience” a place.

Liberty Travel is doing a test pilot in select stores before the full 360 Experience rollout across the brand. Customers will have the opportunity to see (virtually, of course) many different destinations. They will have the chance to “experience” the sights of where they might like to go next to see if it strikes a chord with them. Liberty Travel’s vast network of hotel partners and tourist boards worldwide have been investing heavily in the 360 Experience and will make this library possible for customers to delve into.

This virtual experience, coupled with the expertise and recommendations of their travel consultant, are expected to be two of the major driving forces in the decision-making process for Start-Anew-Moons, milestone trips and annual vacations.

This is a viewpoint from Karen Kent, chief marketing officer at Flight Centre USA Leisure Brands. It appears as part of the tnooz sponsored content initiative..

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