The questions travel agents could ask their clients are endless. Questions are usually logistics oriented and asked in order for agents to get a clearer picture of where their travellers want to go and what they want to see.
The problem with this is that by focusing on the where and what, we miss out on the crucial elements that leave a lasting impact on our clients: the how and why. We also miss out on the opportunity to prime our clients for a meaningful experience.
These days, anyone can plan the logistics of a trip with the click of a button. To add unique value and a human touch, travel advisors must do some reverse engineering. The commonly noted benefits of working with an advisor such as preferred rates and convenience may no longer be enough.
People invest their hard-earned money and precious time in travel, so why wouldn’t we maximize its potential?
While travellers can book anything themselves, there is a significant opportunity for advisors to add depth to their services by asking thoughtful questions that can kickstart the power of anticipation, one of the most impactful states a traveller can be in pre-trip. Additionally, asking unique questions can pique traveller curiosity and allow them to build trust with their advisor.
Travel is a series of moments, and in order to plan it well, we must understand how humans perceive and experience moments. The following six questions are a starting point to help give travellers the best chance at a meaningful travel experience. Remember that questions should be tailored to individual client personalities, circumstances, preferences and visions for their trip.
1. What would “connection” mean to you on this trip?
Connection in different capacities is a major component of what makes travel so meaningful. Even if we travel solo, we have opportunities to connect at many touchpoints whether it be with ourselves, fellow travellers, locals or service providers we meet along the way.
The answer you get from this question will define how you implement opportunities for connection on your client’s trip. Perhaps a client is looking for solitude and you offer them some optional activities for downtime such as heading to a local cafe, or if your traveller is looking to bond with their child, you might suggest some activities that allow them to spend quality time together like a hike or self-guided tour.
To get an idea of where your clients are at across different types of connections, you could even add a couple of scales on a questionnaire and have clients rank the importance of different kinds of connections on their trip.
Travellers connecting on a trip.
2. What would get in the way of this being the best trip you’ve ever had?
It’s not uncommon for travellers to be asked “what is the best trip you’ve ever had?” or “What would the perfect day or trip look like for you?” but these questions can perpetuate a false narrative that travel is all rainbows and butterflies. These questions fail to address that it’s not always external factors that can put a damper on our travels, sometimes it’s what is going on in our own minds.
In his book, “The Art of Travel”, Alain de Botton sums this up:
“I may have noticed a few birds careering through the air in matinal excitement, but my awareness of them was weakened by a number of other, incongruous and unrelated elements, among them a sore throat I had developed during the flight, worry over not having informed a colleague that I would be away, a pressure across both temples and a rising need to visit the bathroom. A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making itself apparent: I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.”
In other words, we tend to bring a lot of mental and emotional baggage with us on our trips, thus cutting into our precious time and opportunity to be fully present and engaged in our travels. When you ask your clients about what might get in the way of this being the best trip they’ve ever had, your travellers might default to answers related to trip complications. These are valid concerns and ones you should be prepared to address, but we want our travellers to partake in some introspection.
To encourage some self-reflection, consider changing up the format of your questionnaires. In the context of this question, you may offer them a list of possible barriers and ask them to select all that apply. Such barriers might include habits, work, conflict with fellow travellers, mindset, anxiety, and expectations.
3. Six months from now, what sort of impact will this trip have had on your life?
With travel bookings, traditional post-trip client follow-up usually looks like a survey and a couple of administrative tasks to gauge how the traveller found the service of their travel planner. This process dismisses a major gap in the traveller experience when we don’t acknowledge and measure the lasting impact travel can have on our lives.
There is a lot of pressure in the travel space to set intentions and produce transformation, but many times life-changing moments are serendipitous. We also can’t discount the fact that time can help us process experiences and evaluate their impact in the grand scheme of our lives.
Sometimes, the way we respond to situations changes as we get older, gain more life experience and reflect. A way to measure the impact of a trip might be to keep a travel journal that has prompts to be answered at different points in time, or if your client is travelling with kids, a time capsule or travel box may be a fun tool to implement.
Traveller rereading her travel journal.
4. What kind of relationship do you want to have with this destination when the trip is over?
The language we use in the travel industry is partly responsible for the extent to which we can maximize and unveil “authentic” experiences. The very word “destination” implies a place to be visited and then left (as in, getting from point A to point B), so encouraging travellers to understand that a place is complex with an ever-evolving story and can have an ongoing impact on their lives is important.
Places are so much more than a stamp on a passport or an Instagram photo, but we often lose sight of that in travel. By visiting and learning about a place, travellers can open their minds to different cultures and teach others about where they went. It also teaches your clients to bring a less extractive approach to their travels, but more of an exchange where they can think about what they can offer the destination as well.
This question helps gauge your travellers' interest in learning about the destination and how the information they learn can help them be ambassadors for the country they visited when they return home. To track their knowledge of where they’re going, you may send a quiz about the place to your travellers to see how much they know and ask what they want to know. This can also help shape the contents of their itinerary.
5. What is something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for?
We tend to focus on a travel bucket list as a superficial outline of what we think we want to see and do. Usually, this bucket list is heavily influenced by industry marketing, social media, and recommendations from friends and family. If we zoom out and focus on how a travel bucket list item might fit into the overall picture of one’s life, an experience can be that much more memorable.
Travel doesn’t have to be an isolated experience, but a continuation of people’s life goals and self-growth journeys. The book, Eat Pray Love, is a wonderful example of this. Elizabeth Gilbert’s decisions around where she went and why were direct reflections of what mattered to her in life and the changes she wanted to make. Our reasons for travel are so inherently personal.
Encourage your clients to think beyond their trip - their goals might range from learning a new language to joining a book club. Get creative with ways you can help them make the first step in achieving these goals via travel.
List of life goals.
6. What would leaving your comfort zone on this trip look like?
We often forget that things like adventure and cultural immersion have different meanings to different people. The answer to this question will allow you to assess how willing your client is to experience something new.
Integrating experiences that can act as stepping stones for venturing out of one’s comfort zone can be helpful and make for memorable travel by contributing to your client's personal development. For many people, travel itself is challenging and uncertain. The very nature of leaving home can push people out of their comfort zones.
This again opens up an opportunity for your client to share vulnerably and allows some dialogue to happen around if they’re willing to challenge themselves on this trip.
Overall, improving the quality of your questions can improve the quality of your client's travels.
If you looking for more insights on how to create life-changing trips for your clients, let's connect: firstname.lastname@example.org.