1) Focus on the future
Despite the pandemic, Pat Probert and Mary de Almeida of Bob Family Travel with TravelOnly are on track to have a banner year for sales focusing on future bookings.
“We are ramping up for a total recovery in early 2023 and seeing this explosion and pent up demand going out through to 2026,” Probert tells Travel Courier. “We are thinking outside the box and already have groups planned out to 2024 and we will be giving our clients guidance on our plans for 2025 and 2026 so they can plan.”
Here the pair reveal a few strategies to increase bookings even during these difficult times.
1) Focus on the future
Based on current bookings, Bob Family Travel is on track to outpace 2018 numbers in 2022.
“If agents are not focusing on 2022 and beyond right now, they are missing the boat as the saying goes,” Probert says. “I have spoken with a number of agents recently that are just not engaged right now and I feel that is a mistake, as clients are beginning to book and are eager to spend on higher end vacations.”
Their team is exclusively focussing on 2022 and 2023 for the time being and will look at last minute travel in 2021 if it is safe to do so later this year.
“We firmly believe we will very likely be seeing the strongest explosion the travel market will have ever seen in recent memory with all the pent-up demand from clients who have been unable to confidently travel for the past two years,” he says. “My advice to other agents is get ready and plan and sell today… not next year or later this year because it will be too late by then.”
2) Go local in the meantime
To cater to clients who are looking to stay closer to home in the meantime, de Almeida says there is interest in companies that offer unique products in Canada such as Le Boat houseboats.
“The program they offered agents last year proved very successful for us last summer as we had a number of clients book Le Boat on the Rideau Canal,” she says.
3) Cruises and river cruises sail away
Currently, Bob Family Travel’s cruise business is quadruple that of all other bookings combined for all inclusive vacations and tours, etc.
“With all of the promotions available and generous cancellation policies we started actively promoting both river and ocean cruises early this year and it is paying huge dividends,” Probert says.
As an example, the team has in excess of 110 clients and growing on Uniworld itineraries and groups on cruise lines for both river and ocean cruising in 2022 alone.
“We had so many requests, that we had to secure all the inventory left on Uniworld’s S. S. Beatrice, for a sailing we are hosting in May 2022,” he adds.
Notably, clients also opted for higher-end cabins, including taking up every suite that was available on the ship.
“This really opened our eyes to what clients are willing to spend,” he points out.
4) Be active in promoting travel
Bob Family Travel has been actively holding webinars and sharing them on social media, which has captured a lot of interest among clients.
“We had such an impressive response from this posting and some emails we sent out for these webinars that over 135 clients booked to watch the webinar in only five days, so we know the interest and pent-up demand is there,” de Almeida says. “The greatest wealth in history is changing hands at record paces and people are going to spend on travel.”
5) Think beyond the ship
In addition to fielding strong cruise bookings for Alaska, the team is also getting a lot of interest for motorhome tours with companies like Alaska Motorhomes. For cruise bookings, they also booked into Princess’ land packages to extend trips for clients in either Alaska or Vancouver, which is another way to increase commission for travel advisors.
“Every client booked Aqua Class cabins so they are spending more and more on travel and on themselves,” he says. “Booking land vacations with their cruises allows them to see more of the natural beauty that Alaska has to offer. Clients aren’t concerned about spending the money as they are focusing on treating themselves. Clients have been confined to their homes for too long and they are ready to travel and spend money.”
6) The suite life
Considering clients recently jumped on the chance to live the suite life with Uniworld — where the first cabins to sell out were the suites, including the $35,000 Royal Suite — the pair say there are many travellers who have the disposable income to spend on travel.
“We never sell from our pocket book and we never underestimate our clients willingness to treat themselves,” he says. “We just give them the best options and make sure they are educated on the benefits of luxury and higher end travel.”
7) Get insured for assurances
Although Probert and de Almeida have always sold Manulife travel insurance to protect clients’ travel investment, the need for insurance has truly come to the forefront in the wake of the pandemic.
“With our current Uniworld bookings, every single client has booked Manulife insurance to make sure they were covered properly in addition to the insurance they currently have,” he says.
In spite of the pandemic, Mary de Almeida (l) and Pat Probert (c) of Bob Family Travel with TravelOnly have had a pretty remarkable year so for bookings.
Although there are still hurdles ahead on the road to recovery, Probert and de Almeida are currently looking for another experienced agent to join their team, and anticipate to continue a strong momentum.
“The Bob Family Travel Team has done a cruise for the last 20 consecutive years on Carnival and Celebrity every November until 2020. Clients are so eager to travel somewhere they don’t even mind if it’s a mystery trip as they have told us to book them wherever we are going, and here is my credit card,” he says. “They are afraid if they do not book now we might sell out so they want to be first on the list. This shows how crazy the travel business may get once we are vaccinated and the entire Bob Family Team is ready.”