Blog, Travel Tips, & News

The Less Glamorous Way to Learn

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This week I’m busy with some virtual networking so I’m sharing a bit of insight into one way I learn about interesting experiences and lovely hotels…

Networking for knowledge and insight

I’m spending most of this week and next week conducting one-on-one virtual meetings with some of the folks in the travel trade from Ireland. Back in March, the week after the lockdown for international flights, I was supposed to go to Ireland to spend ten days at one of my favorite events. Failte Ireland, the tourism board, hosts an event where tour operators from around the world meet with the members of the Irish travel trade to facilitate personal connections and learn of their offerings. Since I specialize in customized private tours and group travel with Ireland as a key destination, this event is the opportunity to hear the latest developments and discover new hidden gems to enhance the itineraries I create {that’s Nevid Cody from Shananigans Walks as we talk about a walking tour of the Medieval Mile in Kilkenny}.

It been a few years since I’ve attended because of various travel conflicts, so I was really looking forward to reconnecting with so many colleagues from Ireland. Usually I’ll go early and stay late to visit some different parts of Ireland that I haven’t been to before, or I will stay on to create an ad hoc road trip to visit a number of the sites that I was introduced to during the meetings. Because the event was canceled, they have now reinvented this as a virtual event for 2020.

Taking Familiarization Trips to New Destinations

So why do you care about this? One of my jobs as a professional travel advisor is to develop deep knowledge of the types of experiences that are available for my clients, so that I can provide better insights and advice to enhance their trips. Sometimes I do that by taking familiarization trips to new destinations, like going to Greece for the American Society of Travel Advisor Destination Expo in 2018, or going to South Dakota last month. I try out different travel suppliers so I can provide first hand information, like sailing on the Paul Gauguin to Tahiti and cruising on Azamara around the island of Japan, so I could learn those cruise lines. I have found that the commitment of time and energy of that personal experience always pays off for the benefit of my clients.

My job always looks very glamorous as I am jetting off to such exotic destinations, and of course those opportunities are amazing. But then we have these very important but less glamorous learning activities – special sessions like this one, where we can conduct these face to face meetings (virtual for now) – with hotel managers, attraction directors, excursion company owners, and transport company managers.

Over 9 business days, I will conduct over 100 one-on-one meetings with travel suppliers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Special Experiences for Custom Travel

It’s great to be able to ask the questions and dig out the details that I know are of particular interest to my clients, and I can leverage these connections to create special experiences as I design custom travel. There are many times where there is no online availability in some of my favorite hotels, but I can email my contact and make arrangements for a client to stay at a beautiful castle hotel, or arrange a private demonstration of Irish weaving, along with some tea and scones, if my client visits a particular shop in Donegal.

For other parts of the world where I may not have the same deep relationships, I still have access to discover those more unique experiences. I have an extensive network with other travel advisors who each have their own specialties and connections in other countries, and so we work together to exchange ideas in a complementary way. I have friends that call me for advice and ideas for Ireland for their clients, and then I can call on them in return if I need some knowledgeable insights. I continue to grow my connections to other specialized companies that are in destinations that I may not traveled to as much, who are experts in that particular country, so that I can work with them to create a highly personalized custom experience for my clients.

Later this year (hopefully) I attend another special event where I’ll be meeting with other travel suppliers that have a broader global mix of specialized travel services to expand my connections in other areas of the world, so I am very hopeful that the conference will happen as planned.

It is my responsibility to invest the time and the money in learning about new destinations and new experiences for the benefit of my clients, and I take that commitment very seriously.