Globus VP Offers Advice On Dealing With Anxious Travellers
Paula Hayes, VP sales for Globus Family of Brands, gave a well-received speech at the recent Avoya Travel Media Day held in California. Instead of the typical upbeat product presentation, Hayes spoke about dealing with anxious travellers in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
It’s an issue that most suppliers avoid discussing publicly, and Hayes’ speech was particularly timely in the aftermath of Manchester.
The Globus exec cited research indicating that if you poll people who are set to go on a trip to the general region where a terrorist attack occurred, a little over half will say they will not change their plans. "A further 29% will still travel, but they will change their destination," Hayes said.
That leaves 20% who are paralyzed with fear and won't go. "These are the anxious travellers," said Hayes. Of those, research suggests that about 1/3 can be swayed by the power of conversation with their travel agent.
Following her speech, Hayes laid out to Cruise Week how agents need to converse with that group: "It has to be a different conversation with those paralyzed with fear, because the 51% that are still going to go will listen to statistical information, they'll listen to logic. But this other group is very emotional and they can only respond emotionally."
You can't start quoting statistics. "You have to let them talk to you, you have to let them know you are listening, you have to paraphrase," she noted.
Agents need to acknowledge what customers are feeling without judgment. "If they start a conversation and you've already identified that they are a nervous traveller, an anxious traveler, you have to stop and say, 'O.K., I know you have always wanted to go to Europe, but maybe you're thinking now is not the right time because of what you are seeing on TV,'" she related.
After that, be prepared for more listening, Hayes says. "Now, since they know you are listening to them, they might go down a path involving some of the gory details," said Hayes. "Right after Nice, they might have started talking about how the media showed that bloody street and the empty baby carriages of dead children. It was so disturbing."
Again, let them talk. "And then, when the moment is right, be honest with them and just say, 'Yes, bad things do happen, but how can I make you feel comfortable that you could still go on this trip you have been dreaming about for a long time?'"
Just flip the switch. Slow down, get on their page, listen to them, and respond to them in a totally different way than you normally would with logic. "It works 1/3 of the time," she assured, "because people go for the affirmation and to get some reassurance from the agent conversation."
The same sorts of issues are raised with tours and cruises. "I was sharing with the audience some of the things we've heard people say over the years," Hayes told Cruise Week. "One of the things they will say is, 'Oh, I would be happy to go if it's just myself, but I can't take my family to a place that has been attacked.'"
She says their rational mind is still working, but fear is swamping them: "They'll say, 'I know most of Europe is still safe, but on a vacation I'll be visiting most of the iconic sites and could that be a target? I know it's just a few isolated incidents, but we're thinking if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.'"
We noticed how the agents in the audience were nodding their heads as she shared these quotes.
How does an agent change that family argument? "Slow down," Hayes advised. "Say, 'Tell me about your mom. Tell me what you are concerned about.' Then start solving it from their particular point of view."
Hayes told the audience that if you spend a lot of time with these clients, they may still decide not to travel at that moment, but the fact that you listened to them and talked to them and empathized with them will earn you their trust. When they are ready, they will call you, because now they have somebody who can see it from their point of view.
Afterwards, Hayes received many comments and compliments from agents who thanked her for talking about the elephant in the room.
"Unfortunately, it's our new normal," she said. "We have to accept it. It's going to happen. And now we have to know how to talk with people about it and be confident in our conversation."