You reap what you sow and now is the time to harvest this year’s efforts, says Steve Witt, co-founder of Not Just Travel and The Travel Franchise

The vaccine rollout news has given us the light at the end of the long, long tunnel that is 2020. Let’s enjoy basking in that light for a minute.

Consumer confidence is back, sales are already up (at Not Just Travel the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine breakthrough boosted our sales by 62% compared to the following week).

But what to do now? How to make the most of the good times? The answer is to stick with what you know works – building relationships and engaging with customers.

At Not Just Travel, we haven’t stopped pushing ourselves forward both in terms of marketing and business development since the pandemic hit. We’ve been busy further training our members into elite travel experts ready for the good times. They haven’t stopped talking to their customer network throughout the darkest days – simply to keep valued relationships going and to answer the many, ever-changing questions that consumers have.

On Saturday (December 5) we held our quarterly virtual conference, attended by our many hundreds of members. It was a chance to inspire them and help them embrace digital and traditional marketing techniques. The day was packed full of strategies and tips for our members to use and develop over the next few weeks to get their marketing fighting fit. There is huge pent-up consumer demand for travel and we are making the most of it by using tried and tested techniques we’ve used over the past few years.

One of the key points is that it’s not about the hard sell. Instead, it’s about offering value to customers – answering their questions, offering expertise and insider knowledge, providing options and deals in ways that engage with them. It’s all about relationships and our team of travel consultants prove that beautifully, time after time.

The value of the travel consultant

In an ever-changing world where rules of travel vary overnight, customers want certainty. Homeworking travel consultants offer this; they are a constant in a world in flux. No matter what happens in the news, your personal travel consultant is still at home, offering honest advice and a seamless service.

Our unique value is further being recognised too. Many travellers who had previously pieced together their own holidays through Tripadvisor and Airbnb have had their fingers burnt. They now realise that faceless, impersonal websites don’t offer the protection and reassurance you get from an agent.

Let’s get talking

Many of our travel consultants saw a plus-side to the second lockdown; those customers desperate to travel in 2021 were at home and were more likely to engage in a phone or online conversation than they were when based in an office. The Christmas period is a time for talking too. Consumers have more time on their hands and want to talk about travel – be that for escapism, planning or booking.

We are currently dealing with three types of customers; those who choose not to book right now, those who need reassurance and want to talk to an expert, and finally those who will travel no matter what, who understand that arrangements may change, and just need help booking. No matter what our own opinion is about travel (personally I can’t wait to get on a plane), there are plenty of customers in the second and third categories, and so there is business to be had.

Now is the time to engage in a conversation with consumers because they are open to ideas, expertise and have time on their hands.

Consumers have also become far more adapted to change. They realise a holiday booking is now more of a two-way process and are open-minded about amendments. More customers are willing to book with solid travel insurance and industry protection in place and will “see what happens”. A year ago, this attitude would have been inconceivable to many customers.

As some of you know, my co-founder Paul Harrison and I launched Not Just Travel while we were penniless and sleeping on friends’ floors. It was also the day before 9/11 which had serious, widespread ramifications for the global travel industry. The difference between now and then is that those terrorist atrocities decimated consumer confidence and demand. This time around the desire to travel is there, people just need to know what hoops they will need to jump through and weigh up the benefits. We know what it’s like to ride out the worst downturns, but we also know when to recognise the upticks too. Times are bountiful for those who work hard.

No matter what your role in the industry, we are all travel experts. We can offer expertise, consistency and reliability. The customer is king (and queen) and we are there for them.

Now is the time to engage. Let’s get talking.