I know right now, as we’re still in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, it can feel like EVERYTHING is out of your control if you’re a travel agent.
I get it … I’ve spent much of the last month feeling that way, too.
So I know that that’s a bleak feeling.
That’s the kind of feeling that can make you want to curl up in a ball and give up.
But I don’t want that for you. I don’t want that for our (resilient, beautiful, life-changing) industry.
So if you’re feeling (understandably!) out of control and overwhelmed, I want to remind you of something.
There is ONE thing you have complete control over:
How you show up.
I firmly believe that the travel advisors who commit to being VISIBLE right now are the ones who will weather this crisis with confidence, and come out flourishing on the other side.
That’s what this blog post will do. I’m covering what travel agents can do RIGHT NOW to future-proof their travel businesses, even in the face of a pandemic.
- what to post on social media
- what to share in your e-newsletters and blog posts
- which marketing asset you should invest in right now
- the financial relief available to travel advisors
Let’s get into it:
What Travel Agents Should Post on Social Media During the Pandemic
What kind of content is appropriate during this crisis?
What should you be posting right now?
Should you be sharing more information about coronavirus … or is that just white noise at this point?
Maybe you’re tempted to break up the doom and gloom of your newsfeed with happy travel pics and positive mantras, and not even mention the c-word.
Or maybe you’re still not convinced you should post at all …
If some version of the above has been racing through your mind, this copywriting concept can help:
Before they start writing, good copywriters do research and collect data—and one thing they look at is something called “Voice of Customer” data.
Essentially, copywriters will try their darndest to join the conversation that’s already going on inside their prospects’ heads.
That way, they can reflect what their prospects are already thinking—their fears, their hopes, their desires—in the copy they write.
By doing this, copywriters ensure that the websites and ads they craft actually catch their prospects’ attention, because it speaks to their current preoccupations … instead of becoming marketing “fluff” that’s not anchored to where their prospects are at, right now.
When it comes to figuring out what to post … I want you to join the conversation in your prospects’ heads.
Take Your Cue From Your Clients
Based on their Facebook and Instagram feeds, are your clients still preoccupied with coronavirus?
If they are, then I wouldn’t fight it and try to post “normal” content—because it’s just going to get lost in the convo …
… even if your intention is to provide a joyful, welcome distraction.
Now this DOESN’T mean I’m recommending you post scary coronavirus charts constantly.
But it DOES require you to reframe your content.
Example: Reframing Your Social Media Content for COVID-19
For example, let’s say on Wednesdays you typically post a “Where in the World Wednesday” photo, and you invite your followers to guess where the photo is taken.
Instead of just posting your typical photo and caption, tweak the lead in so that it joins the convo your prospects are already having.
>> Something like:
“Most of us would rather be somewhere else right now (particularly somewhere with plenty of toilet paper!). So let’s play ‘Where in the World Wednesday’—comment below if you know where this pic was taken!”
With one simple lead in, you’re meeting your prospects where they are at, joining them in the conversation they’re having in their heads … and then leading them to a more positive place.
Does that make sense?
For more on this concept—including another example, how to know when to move on from coronavirus content, and what you should be posting about no matter what—watch this Facebook Live video (~14 min).
Blogging Tips for Travel Agents During COVID-19
Okay, so you’ve got a guideline for how to approach social media right now—but what about your long-form content, like your blog posts or your e-newsletter?
What do you post about in the middle of a pandemic?
Not what to pack in your carry on … because your prospects aren’t packing any bags for a while.
Not how to use the Paris metro … because, well, even the Parisians aren’t using the metro at the moment!
Instead of “tip-focused” content, I think NOW is the right time to tell stories.
Stories keep your audience entertained and engaged. Stories help you stay top of mind, even if your more traditional blog or e-newsletter content won’t fly right now. And stories allow you to connect with your audience on a deeply personal level (which is what a lot of us are craving at this particular moment).
But how do you tell a good story? Watch below for a tip on the difference between a compelling travel story … and a snooze-inducing one:
The #1 Marketing Asset Travel Agents Should Work on During the Coronavirus “Slow Period”
I know many travel advisors are still in the trenches with their clients, still stuck on hold with resorts and airlines trying to rebook vacations.
But I know other travel pros are starting to feel a slow down, and starting to wonder:
“Okay, what now?”
If you’re now looking for ways to fill your slower days with something other than binge-watching Love Is Blind or trying to keep your pre-schooler preoccupied for more than five minutes …
… I’ve got a suggestion for you.
Focus on your foundational marketing asset: your website.
Because, for one, undergoing a website refresh—or finally putting one together for the first time!—is a huge project.
Having a chunk of time to really focus on all the aspects (like figuring out your audience, writing your copy, then moving on to design) that go into crafting an effective website is really valuable.
Upleveling your website always takes longer than you think it will, so the free time you have now is a silver lining.
But here’s the bigger reason:
I have a hunch that, even when coronavirus worries pass and travel restrictions lift, the public may be a little gun-shy about traveling again, a little hesitant. Nervous.
We’ve just undergone a collective, global shock … and no one knows how long it’ll take before the psychic shock wears off and things go back to normal—or even what our “new normal” will look like.
Plus, many folks outside of the travel industry are feeling a wallet squeeze too. Even if they are ready to travel again soon, I bet they’re going to be more careful and thoughtful about how they spend their money.
Now I hope these hunches don’t come off as “doom and gloom” predictions—because I think travel advisors who take their businesses seriously and act NOW will be just fine.
Because here’s what nervous, hesitant travelers are going to be looking for when this is all said and done: someone they can trust.
They’re going to need reassurance and authoritative guidance.
Which is exactly what career travel pros, acting from a place of integrity, are primed to give.
Which brings me back to your website.
It’s hard to come across as “trustworthy” as a travel pro—no matter how many years you’ve been in business, no matter how deep your expertise—if your site still looks and reads like it was slapped together … or if you don’t have a website at all.
So, I recommend reviewing your website to ensure it has the all-important trust factor.
Ask yourself these questions as you review your travel agent website:
- How are you backing up any claims to credibility that you make? For example, if you claim to be a “family travel specialist,” what do you point to in your copy as “proof”?
- How are you reassuring your prospects that you can plan a great trip, but also have their backs throughout the entire process?
- Does your website make it sound like you’ll book anything for anybody, or do you come across as an expert in a particular region or type of travel? You’ll want to strive for the latter, because experts inspire more trust and confidence.
Financial Relief for Travel Agents Affected by the Coronavirus
So everything above is what travel agents can do to stay visible for their prospects—so their businesses can bounce back quickly post crisis.
But I know you need relief right now, too.
Good news: Through the CARES Act, a bunch of financial relief and assistance just became available to small business owners, including travel advisors.
Much of the relief is available to the types of businesses normally locked out of applying—like sole proprietors, small business owners, and Independent Contractors (which encompasses many travel agents!).
Now I’m not an expert or (obviously) familiar with your particular situation—but as a small business owner myself, here are the things that I’m paying attention to:
Paycheck Protection Program Loan Guarantee:
Small businesses—including the self-employed and sole proprietors—can apply for low-interest loans from local lenders. You’re going to want to reach out to your bank to learn more about this one.
Important note: A significant portion of this loan—or all of it—may be forgiven. To get loan forgiveness, at least 75% of the loan must be used for payroll, and no more than 25% of the loan can be used for things like rent, utilities, and health insurance.
>> UPDATE 4.20.20: Unfortunately, funding ran out quickly for PPP, and most banks are no longer accepting applications. The good news is that Congress is gearing up to pass another round of funding.
I’d still recommend that you check with your bank to see if you can fill out an application so you can get in line for this second round of funding. If your bank is not accepting applications, small regional banks may be a good bet. Paypal has also become an approved SBA lender and is still accepting applications.
SBA’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan and Loan Advance:
Yes, this one’s a mouthful. Small businesses—including the self-employed and sole proprietors—can apply for a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration.
Here’s the really key part, though—you can also request an emergency cash advance of up to $10,000. SBA recently clarified that businesses will receive $1,000 per employee, up to $10,000, under this advance. So if you’re a business of one, you can get $1,000. And “advance” is really a misnomer, in my opinion, because you do not have to pay it back.
Here’s the language straight from the SBA’s website:
>> UPDATE 4.20.20: Unfortunately, SBA is no longer accepting applications either, because funding ran out. However, SBA’s website does say they’re not accepting new apps “at this time”—so there’s a chance they’ll accept applications again once new funding is passed.
I recommend you bookmark this page & check back periodically to see if/when SBA is accepting new applications: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19
Unemployment Insurance (UI) for Travel Agents:
Typically, the self-employed and ICs have not been able to apply for unemployment benefits. That changes under the CARES Act, thanks to something called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may not get your state’s full unemployment benefits, but it’s worth checking out.
Since (UI) is administered state by state, you’ll want to check your state’s guidelines on this to figure out how to apply. An employment lawyer told me that many states will probably be ready to roll out Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (again this is what applies directly to folks normally left out of UI) in about 2-3 weeks, if they haven’t already—so this is something to keep your eye on.
Check Your State’s Economic Relief Resources:
In addition to the above, your specific state may offer its own emergency economic aid (I know DC did, where I’m located).
Again, I’m not a lawyer or expert on any of the above, so please do your due diligence on these programs.
I found this article very helpful in understanding what’s available to the self-employed—including the fine print attached to the loans.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers—but I encourage you to post your questions in the comments below. I may be able to point you in the direction of a resource that can help!
And I also encourage you to sign up for my FREE Travel Agency Website Checklist, so you can ensure your most important marketing asset is in top shape before our industry bounces back: