A Travel Agency? A Bar? or Both!

Before the internet the only way to book a trip was to use a professional travel agency who had the knowledge and the tools to make the airline and hotel reservations. The number of travel agencies peaked in the US in 1997.

However less than half were in business in 2012! What happened? People could find information and book everything online.

Travel Agencies are Back!

Why then are some travel agencies making a comeback? There is now way too much information! Travelers no longer have the time to wade through it all to create their own unique travel experience. The busy Millennial doesn’t have time to do their own taxes, shop for their own groceries or clean their own home. They rely on professionals for these tasks for which they either are not equipped or do not have the time to perform. No is the time for the resurgence of the travel agency!

Departure Lounge

Called by different brand names, but often referred to as Departure Lounges, the new travel agency looks like a upscale bar and sells craft beer, wine and upscale cocktails.

They also have travel consultants who will take over the task of designing a personalized itinerary. These new travel agencies also hold special nights to learn about travel to exotic locations. Family events are held where children are involved in the planning.

Spending Money on Travel

Does it work? Eighty per cent of clients who come in to meet with a travel consultant end up booking a trip.

The average cost of the trip $10,000! There are no fees for the traveler, but the departure lounges do make money on the high priced drinks they sell. But if you are going to book a $10,000 trip, you are not going to complain about the cost of a drink.

Travel Technology: Concierge You Can Wear

The Digital Concierge Has Arrived

Consumers now have  information at their fingertips. Want to know the weather? Any traffic delays ahead? Find the best hotel? All they need to do is check their phone.

Travel Technology Targeting the Travel Experience

Travelers want a personalized experience that meets their lifestyle and activity preferences. This is true whether they are single travelers or families. Cruise companies have responded by adding unique experiences both on and off board that focus on anything from nightlife to environmental issues to volunteer opportunities.

Destination Information Overload

Travelers want to get the most from their cruise experience but don’t want to waste anytime searching, and possibly missing, an event. With today’s huge cruise ships and varied opportunities, how do people know where to go and what to do?

Digital Concierge

Technology presented the answer with a wearable medallion that is a personal concierge. It allows travelers to know where they are on the ship and help them to navigate to where they want to go. Locate friends and family. Book dinner and spa reservations. Provide virtual experiences of excursions before they are booked. As the software learns the travelers’ preferences it will make customize recommendations of where to go and what to see.

Hotel Fitness Centers – Guests Say They Want Them But Then Why Don’t They Use Them

Hotel Survey Findings Aren’t Always Accurate

Hospitality organizations know they need to conduct research on what people want. But sometimes the results of a survey differ from what people actually do. For example, a survey was conducted on what amenities people want when they visit a hotel.

A majority of survey respondents stated that fitness was important to them and that they wanted to able to work out while on a trip. So hotels have been busy installing fitness centers, which are costly not just for the initial design and equipment but also the ongoing expense of  maintenance.

But Don’t Use Them!

The survey results were that 46 per cent said that they would use the fitness centers. However in reality only 22 per cent of guest use them. The higher end the hotel, the less likely people are to use the equipment even though they said they planned to do so.

Gap Between Research and Reality

This gap between survey results and actual behavior occurred with other amenities. While 66 per cent of guests want free WI-FI, only 42 per cent use it at the hotel. This is true even with bottled water. Fifty six per cent of guests state they would drink it, but only 49 per cent do.

Conduct Observation Research!

The report’s conclusion? That hotels would be better served by observing the guests actually usage behavior than relying on survey results. People do not always act the way they say they are going to do.

Video Email

No One Wants to Read an Email Anymore

A hotel, attraction or event understands that they must have a message that resonates with their targeted visitors. They may spend considerable time researching to get just the right words that describe the benefits they will provide. But what if no one reads the email? Video email may be the answer!

Calls to Action Work!

Potential visitors want information and the hospitality industry makes the request process simple. Calls to action are embedded on websites and social media. It is quick and easy for an interested potential visitor to request an email with more information.

But Emails Aren’t Read

The problem is that even though the information was requested it is not read. Why? First, people are busy. Second, the desire has passed. Third, no one wants to read.

As we have become to increasingly rely on visual communication, people have less patience with the written word. The old saying, that a picture is worth a thousand words has always been true, but now even more so.

Video Email Gets Action

It is known that having the word video in a subject line increases the open rate. The new forms of video email marketing have the video play immediately when the email is clicked.

The reader/viewer can immediately see smiling visitors, beautiful scenery and exciting action!

Happy – or not – Valentine’s Day!

Happy (or maybe not so happy) Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day has now gone global. What was once considered just a Western holiday is now celebrated in many countries. How important is Valentine’s Day? A research study in the US found that 53% of women would end a relationship if they did not receive a token of love on the day!

Alone on Valentine’s Day?

However not everyone is involved in a romantic relationship. For these customers, the emphasis on romantic love can be a bit depressing.

Here’s how the hospitality industry can help!

Hospitality Industry Events

Host Special Single Events. But be sure to keep it upbeat! No one wants to come to a pity-party.

Market Self Appreciation: What better day to offer a special offer at a spa! While everyone else is having a romantic dinner, singles can enjoy pampering themselves.

Focus on Others: Have a Valentine’s event that focuses on love of the community. A charity event that provides for those less fortunate can put romantic disappointment in perspective.

Sponsor a Seminar: A talk on goal setting can broaden the single person’s perspective and also provide an opportunity for singles to understand they are not alone.

Never Ask: Are Your Alone?

And, hotel personnel please remember – don’t ask “only one?” or “are you alone?” when a single person approaches! After all, no one asks a couple “only two?” or “aren’t there more of you?” Treat single customers exactly the same as a couple!

International Tourism Strategies is now offering a customized English language and guest relations training program for hotel employees at all levels in providing excellent customer service.

As the hotel industry expands there is a need for trained staff. However, many potential employees need extra help in learning to give excellent customer service.

Working with the hotel I provide a customized program to train hotel staff to understand how to communicate and serve across language and cultural differences. Lessons are based on the vocabulary needed by staff so that they can both provide and sell the hotel’s services

Millennial Traveler: Myth vs. Fact

How Are Millennials Really Different?

Because they spend so much time online we might think we know all about Millennial traveler preferences. Everyone in tourism seems to be focused on attracting the Millennial traveler. They are children of the digital age, born between 1982 and 2004.

Millennial Travel Myths

We do know that these travelers are confident and goal oriented. We know that they view travel as a necessary part of their lifestyle. Not a pleasure to be earned. Because they travel frequently, they are targeted by many in the tourism industry. To successfully attract Millennials you need to understand myth vs. fact.

Myth: All that is needed is social media marketing.

Fact: It is the content, not the media, that gets their attention.

There is nothing new about social media with this group. 97% are already posting their own travel stories online.

What they want is to find travel stories by peers that have a human connection. Over 50% of Millennial travelers were inspired to take their last trip because of something they saw on social media!

Myth: They are online bargain hunting.

Fact: They are online experience hunting.

This group has money to spend if they can be convinced that they will get a personalized experience.

60% of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience than a possession. To them, travel is a social experience and what they want  is to interact both with other travelers and local residents. The lesson learned, sell peer to peer using stories of local experiences.

Question: What stories are sharing online?

Tourism Customer Service

It’s Not the Time in Line: 
It’s the People at the Front of the Line

Tourism customer service: Everyone knows, including the employees, that how you treat your customers is critical. How critical? Here’s an example.

Everyone Hates Standing In Line 

No one enjoys going through security at the airport. You never know how long you are going to have to wait. When a research study at a major airport was conducted of travelers’ views of security procedures it was thought that a shorter length of wait time was the factor that determined customer satisfaction.

The assumption was wrong! Survey research found that the critical factor was how the passenger was treated when they got to the front of the line.

People could forgive the long wait, if they were treated well!

The secret to good customer service is not the technical details, although these should be considered, but the human interaction. The answer seems simple. Tell your employees to shape up and treat people better! Why doesn’t this work?

Why Employees Care

The airport study interviewed employees as to why they had problems interacting with customers. A quote from one employee revealed the answer.


“I will care about what you say, when I believe you care about me.”

If employers don’t treat their employees well, how can they expect their employees to behave differently with guests!

Employees Can’t Help if They Don’t Know

Observation research was also conducted at the airport. Researchers watched employees going about their daily routine. They noticed that as they walked through the airport they avoided eye contact with travelers. Again, it might have been thought that employees were just simply rude.

Not so! When employees were asked, it was found that they avoided contact with passengers because they knew that they would be asked questions for which they did not have answers. After all, why should gate attendants know answers to such questions as, Where is the closest restroom? or Where can I recharge my phone? when they don’t use these services.

Only if employees are given all the information needed, even if it is not immediately relevant to their jobs, can they provide excellent service.

The Answer to Excellent Customer Service

The answer to ensuring good customer service in tourism businesses is to treat employees well and give them all the information they need to serve the public.


Question: Do I know what questions my customers ask to which my employees don’t have answers?

Say Happy New Year with Hongbao

Happy New Year! It’s Not the Same in Every Culture

Many people may think of January 1 as the day to say Happy New Year. This is not true in every culture. The Chinese use a lunar calendar to mark the date, so the day to celebrate will vary. This year on January 28 Chinese will welcome the year of rooster.

Hongbao History

How people will celebrate will also vary. The Chinese distribute red envelopes with cash (hongbao) at New Years and on other days of celebration.


Why red? The story goes way back. Essentially it is based on warding off evil spirits. Also, the color red is associated with energy, happiness and good luck. While learning the reason for a custom is always interesting, it is vital to know the etiquette that is associated with a holiday.

Hongbao Etiquette

The rules for giving hongboa include only using clean crisp bills and making sure the amount is appropriate for the relationship.

Also, remember the symbolism of numbers is important in Chinese culture. Odd amounts are bad, even are good and an amount that starts or ends with the number eight is even better!

When receiving hongbao always use two hands. Don’t open the envelope in front of the giver. Remember to say thanks. Technology now makes the process easier as a virtual hongbao can be sent over WeChat!

Hongbao and Tourism

Why should someone working in tourism be aware of this custom? First, holidays important to employees should be acknowledged.

Second events that fall on cultural holidays should be themed.

Most importantly, any hotel guest should feel that the hotel understands the significance of the day.

Just as an American might feel welcomed in China when on Thanksgiving they see decorations with turkeys, guests from China would feel welcome in the US when they see red decorations on New Years.

Question: How much do we know about the holidays of our international visitors?

Why Go Local?

How Local Do You Go?

With the success of Airbnb every hotelier has been considering how to incorporate the go local experience into their hotel. However, the issue of consistency of experience should not be forgotten. After all, it is the reason that hotel chains were started.

Need for Consistent Experience

The first Holiday Inn hotel in the US was opened in 1952. Within 12 years there were 500 more opened.


Why the success? People had the automobiles and the money to travel (airfares were still far too expensive for the average family). Most existing motels were mom and pop enterprises and there were limited means to research motel quality such as comfort and safety. Unwelcome surprises were not uncommon.

Desire for Local Experience

The hotel chain was preferred because it could provide a consistent quality experience by maintaining uniform standards for all participating hotels. For the traveler, no surprises were good!

Today quality is assumed. It can be quickly determined by looking at reviews. Any hotel that doesn’t have good reviews will have to change or it will not be booked. Now the traveler is looking for more and what they want is the local experience. This trend is affecting hotels at all levels.

Even Five Star Hotels are Going Local

When even the Ritz Carlton has local food trucks you know that going local, which may have started at the farmer’s market, is now mainstream. 

But it is not just local food but local retail. The Roger Smith New York Hotel has contracted for retail pop up shops. People still want a souvenir, but go local is best!

Question: How do balance the need for consistency with the desire for unique experiences?

Click here to access tourism marketing plan worksheets!

Single Traveler vs. Solo Traveler: Do You Know the Difference?

The Single Traveler 

The travel industry use to think single travelers were sad, lonely, and looking for love. They traveled alone because they had no one with whom to travel – a situation they hoped to fix while on the trip! This may have been true in the past but it is not an accurate description of today’s solo traveler.

The New Solo Traveler

According to a Euromonitor International report, in 2015 a review of the holiday industry discovered that one out of three trips taken by British travelers was solo. Why? First, 25 per cent of British adults are unmarried, divorced, or widowed. Second, this group has money to spend and, rather than looking for love, are seeking life-changing experiences. While they want to socialize, this is not the main reason for their trip.

Who are Yuccies?

Many are of these travelers are Yuccies, urban creatives in their 20’s and 30’s. They indulge themselves with premium products, and that includes travel. They enjoy a way of life that blends cultural adventures with the consumption of luxury. 

Rooms and Services for Solos

The tourism industry is responding. Cruise lines use to shun single travelers as a waste of cabin space. Now the major cruise lines, such as Norwegian and polar specialist Quark Expeditions, are introducing single occupancy cabins along with shared spaces for solo travelers to socialize.

In addition, hotels are developing specialty ‘lifestyle’ brands targeted at solo leisure travelers. Marriott’s Moxy and Hyatt’s Centric have a style that is authentic to the local area rather than a corporate feel.

Question: The solo travel is independent but wants connection to the places they visit how are you responding?

Click here to access tourism marketing plan worksheets!