Beyond the Webinar: 5 Tips for Successful Travel Trade Marketing

April 01, 2021

Zoomed out? You’re not alone. After a year of toil, the travel industry has adapted and experimented with virtual events and Zoom meetings for everything from FAM trips to informational webinars.

And guess what? Virtual events are here to stay. Well, partially at least.

While we are inching towards in-person events again, our virtual adaptations have underscored where these events are just temporary fixes and where they are healthy additions in reaching the travel trade. Travel advisors are sitting at home just like everyone else, eager to reach their clients and network with destinations again. Reaching out to them is as vital as ever, but it’s time to go beyond the basic webinar, to stop simply talking into the void of Zoom and consider a few small shifts that can strengthen the bond between travel advisors and destinations that will be so pivotal as tourism ramps up again.

1. Lean towards storytelling

There’s a reason humans can linger on Netflix for hours but lose interest in any sort of conference or meeting after ten minutes. Humans like stories. Interactions and presentations for the travel trade should be no different, yet many destinations have not yet mastered the art of narration.

When creating any materials or meetings or content for travel advisors, destinations should be keenly aware that they aren’t just sharing information – especially not if that information could be summed up in an email! Instead, a presentation in any form, even a webinar, should include some sort of storytelling or narration or entertainment quality that will hook your audiences and show them that you’re not just rehashing the room rates and commission fees.

Sure, information is important, and it can be a part of a presentation, but treating virtual FAM trips or sales meetings like their own little episodes to showcase something unique about your destination will be instantly more memorable to the travel advisors you want to work with as they begin sending clients on trips again.

2. Experiment with the medium

While taking a story telling approach is a big step, consider how you will tell these stories and maybe slide away from the more traditional webinar. Zoom fatigue is real and we’re not against podcasts, ezines, or other types of formats to spread messaging and narrations around to travel advisors.

Leitrim and Derry, on the Island of Ireland, adopted a multimedia approach by offering webinars, a bespoke ezine, and customized podcasts to diversify and repurpose the stories they wanted to share with audiences about slow adventure travel in their destination. While by no means reinventing the wheel, the mix of media allowed the destination to hold live events while also providing engaging outlets for their information and stories on-demand. These more immersive stories, moving away from Zoom, allow travel advisors to focus on the content and not so much on the unfamiliar faces staring back on their tenth video call for the day.

3. Let the people speak

While it’s important for DMOs to create bonds with their travel advisors, it’s not always “Betty from the office” that stands out when selling a destination. It’s the unique hotel owner, the one-of-a-kind tour guide, or the avant garde chef who truly makes a place shine.

No offense to Betty.

As destinations start thinking about their stories, don’t just leave it to the DMO office to share stories – let’s hear it straight from your local partners themselves. Supporting and creating links with your travel advisors is essential, but giving them some new fresh faces to engage with is a winning strategy to create a more memorable experience, even if it’s a webinar.

It may take time and organization to find a few great storytellers, but they are out there, and destinations need to lead with them. DCI’s managing director of travel trade marketing, Amalia Meliti, said, “Deliver information that advisors otherwise would not have because it’s a local expert sharing it, and your advisors will truly appreciate it.”

4. Vary the hard sell

Yes, of course travel advisors are always looking for the bottom line – how are we going to make a buck? It’s their job! But that doesn’t mean that every single interaction needs to be a hard sell. Sometimes it’s nice just to express your appreciation for advisors who work with your destination.

Channel some mental health and well-being and create events that don’t just sell the destination, but that illustrate that you care about your travel advisors. A live yoga session on a beach, a little local comedy show, or even a demonstration on how to create the perfect local cocktail could be tiny investments in time that elevate regular interactions to unique and memorable ones.

“Go into a webinar and consider enlisting a professional who can help calm and relax the group. Destinations have to consider not always selling themselves, but instead off a mental break session to reconnect with travel advisors,” Meliti said.

Be mindful that travel advisors are as stressed out as everyone else. Consulting a mental health or well-being expert as to how your specific destination can help soothe frayed nerves is a positive step to rebuild the bonds that have been shattered by not seeing each other for more than a year.

5. Be generous

It’s a financial investment, but one that will likely pay back in dividends. Be generous with travel advisors. Shipping a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, or even just a beautiful print or postcard from your destination will be the special touch that travel advisors will need to remember you.

Meliti confirmed that it’s the little things now that make the difference, because, let’s face it, the delicious meals and fancy hotel rooms aren’t a possibility just yet. Little things are all we have at this point. As you start to conceive of FAM trips and other travel trade events, however, you want your advisors remembering you for the tiny gestures that seemed so kind after a year of staying away.

Travel advisors are the ones on the front lines, enticing prospective clients towards your destination. They are more important now than ever before, so take a moment to make sure you’re doing all you can to keep them on your side.

Worried that you’ve lost touch with the travel trade? DCI has 60 years of engaging travel advisors, so contact Amalia Meliti at [email protected] to learn more about what we’re doing to help keep destinations at the top of advisors’ minds as we look forward to the return of travel.