We use the expression “Managing Expectations” almost daily in our offices. It doesn’t matter how much a trip will cost. If the client has a picture in their mind and it falls short, they will be disappointed. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind when designing trips:
Do: Talk realistically with your client about how much they can see of a country. We’ve had clients come to us saying they want to “do” Italy or “see” Patagonia. It’s important for travel professionals to understand how much one can reasonably see and do in a week, two weeks, the time allotted. We see Italy as a country that one can visit multiple times and still just scratch the surface. Patagonia could be broken up into three trips: Bariloche and the Lake District in the north; the corridor between Chalten, Torres Des Paine and Punta Arenas another trip; and Ushuaia, Tiera Fuego and Cape Horn another.
Don’t: Underestimate local travel challenges to please your clients. We have clients wanting to see three Greek Islands in a week’s time. Important to take into account ferry delays and the fact that the best way to enjoy Greece is to take it slow, linger in cafes, not be in a hurry.
Do: Take the time to truly understand your clients. Find out as much as you can about their tastes, their interests, their energy levels, their travel history.
Don’t: Assume your client will love a certain hotel just because it may be the best in a country. A very traditional couple may not want to go near a design hotel and vice-versa.
Do: Let your clients know how they should budget for day-to-day expenses while in the country they are visiting. While you may only be handling their pre-paid hotels and services, make sure you let them know what they should budget for meals and gratuities and other costs.
Don’t: Talk about the great restaurants in a destination unless you are prepared to secure reservations in advance and financially commit your client. For example, in Japan, there are penalties for canceling reservations and often clients will be all gung-ho about restaurants prior to their trip but when there, suddenly, they decide they don’t want sushi for dinner since they had it for lunch. Or they feel like going out casually, rather than dressing up to go to the Michelin-star restaurant you confirmed a reservation at months prior.
Do: Avoid packing too much into your client’s itinerary. While you think they’ll love the historical tour, the wine tasting and the zip-line experience, overscheduling them is never a good idea. Allow time for them to be serendipitous.
Don’t: Assume your client can get tickets to big attractions when at the location. The last thing you want them to do is have to stand in line for hours, waiting to get into see an iconic attraction. Get the time slots in advance.
I could go on and on with Dos and Don’ts of managing expectations. A simple one-size-fits-all rule to adhere to is as follows: For each and every client, imagine that is you getting on the plane. Imagine it is you paying with your hard-earned money. Imagine it is you heading off for a trip of your dreams. If you live up to your own expectations, you’ll do the same for your clients.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.