When I was nine years old my father died suddenly. My widowed mother decided to take her two young daughters to warmer climes for the winter and thus we began a series of cold-weather escape trips.
The day we departed on our first such trip, aunts, uncles and cousins saw us off at the train station with much ado – a flower corsage for each of us travelers, a huge basket of snacks and goodies to enjoy en route, farewell speeches and songs. You would have thought we were going to the moon, not just Florida.
But the excitement of the that departure day and the preparation days leading up to it have remained in my memory always. We were going AWAY! We were planning how many bathing suits we’d need on this warm, wonderful trip. We had packed and repacked out luggage a thousand times and told our neighbors and schoolmates of what awaited us.
Now, as I look back on this first of many trips, each one farther and farther from home, I realize in retrospect that the anticipation was the best part of the trip.
Today, in this same way, although your tour members are not children, they still may harbor the same childish excitement about an upcoming trip. In fact, the anticipation and preparation my very well be the best part.
So what can you do as a tour operator to fulfill this unspoken but necessary role? Do not assume that once they enrolled on your trip and submitted their deposit, they are yours – that they don’t need your ongoing attention, your recognition, your rah-rah to keep them excited. After all, they could always cancel their trip membership if something else came along to which they suddenly might take a fancy.
Plan in advance for a series of contacts with all those enrolled. Your first contact might be something as simple as a welcome letter, personalized. A second contact a month or so later could be some news – maybe that you’ve added a special tour feature, perhaps that the trip is filling up, and so on down the line ’till per-departure. You could be sending them some suggestions for appropriate clothes and packing lists. You might remind them of thins they might want to schedule before the trip like medical or dental check-ups. And you might want to make several reading suggestions about the places and people of the areas you’ll be visiting.
I find it particularly well received to tell them what they can shop for – what the area is particularly noted for. I have tea pots from London, colorful table linens from Patzcuaro, Mexico and my most favorite of all: soft, comfortable leather shows from Italy that last forever.
Many cruise lines and major tour operators are no longer preparing attractive departure packets. Some are simply telling their travelers to print out their own departure documents from their website. If the trip is such a do-it-yourself affair, where’s the glamour? The excitement?
You, as their trip coordinator and leader, can obtain their final documents and package them attractively with a personal departure letter. Perhaps you’ll want to include such things as a map of the area you’ll visit, perhaps a “My Trip” notebook and pen, a list of the group members and some surprise enclosures you feel appropriate.
Now they feel they’re really going! And they’re going with you – this wonderful person who is looking out for them all along the journey with your extra touch.