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Ringing Cash Registers In A Covid19 Climate

September 7, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

“Learn the Way of Many Weapons…” – Samurai Battle Creed

These are exceptional times. Punishing our businesses, our emotional weather and our livelihoods in an arena we’ve never, ever, had to occupy before now.

Making the Most of our opportunities WILL mean the difference between long term success, and survival or taking a beating beyond any tool for measuring our losses.  There are, ways we can Fight Back.

We’ve taken a fair few liberties here in suggesting ways to counter-attack Covid19 business losses. You may have also uncovered a few weapons of your own: we’d love to have you share.

Like the tag-lines say… “We’re All In This Together!”

Find a comfy chair, and settle in: this is going to take all of us, a bit more time to get our incomes around…

“The best way of eating the Elephant , Is  One, Small Bite at a Time…” – Masai of Kenya

While I’m waiting for the runways to be cleared again, gang-planks to be lowered and borders to open I intend to start priming the pump and planning to ring my cash registers. “Setting the stage” for advanced travel now, while waiting for the Covid19 clouds to clear will help me to ring them a lot louder.

I can see clearly now

I don’t need binoculars or bifocals to spot the biggest bag of money in travel waiting down the road. I’ll be catering to the planet’s growing passion for SPECIAL INTEREST TRAVEL.

For almost five decades now, we’ve mined pure gold from “The Specialty Travel Index”, a magazine that lists over 40,000 special interest tour operators around the globe.

Listings are itemised by both INTEREST and GEOGRAPHICAL locations. I can find a chocolate tour operator in Canada or Copenhagen simply by running my finger down the INDEX PAGES or, on-line, by briskly moving my mouse around.

STI is updated by season, twice a year: Spring and Summer editions… and then Fall & Winter.

I’ve kept all of the older, hard-copy back issues to use when I prospecting over my coffee cup for our next EUREKA. The nice thing about Special Interest Travel is, folks who want to go along, don’t care much, what it costs, as long as they get ‘what they like’ so margins can be whatever I please, within reason. And we’re not competing for the same travel dollars as everyone else. Bringing the business to our door, is far more secure that waiting for it to rock up on it’s own. Being proactive is almost, everything.

If time is money, the Corona epidemic has just given us a massive vault full of it. We simply need to apply the correct combination.

Ring Cash Register… then Repeat…and then, repeat again and again and ….

Good news travel swiftly, and we’ve had some special interest tours on our books for over 20 years and counting. Folks who couldn’t go along this year, are already saving up for the next time, and peers who ‘missed out’ come out of the woodwork to be invited along the ‘next time.’  We openly encourage ‘friend-get friend’ & tag-along introductions and provide real, value-added incentives for making introductions to new business.

Photo Credit: Mark Sheehan

? How Well Do You Know YOUR Current Customers?

With Corona restrictions in place, it may be a very good time to Re-kindle! And while you’re at it, reach out and identify some new gateways. Prospecting for new customers by their passions is not too hard to accomplish.  Special interest travellers make it easy because they love to join clubs, and associations and readily reveal places for us to prospect for future profits.

Think About It; The Pent-Up-Demand is Humongous!

Even if my future clients and customers, can’t travel NOW, they ARE, ALL thinking about the day when they can:  Very Fertile Soil for planting the seeds and taking deposits. We’re all dreaming of the day, so why not start right now to pave the way. Terms such as “Final prices and dates are subject to change’ have  already become roll-off-the-tongue-terms to our customers so as long as we’re able to adapt, there is nothing to prevent us from looking forward:  There’s a very good reason our windshield is so large, while the rear-view mirror is marginal…

“If you’re not moving forward… You’re not in first place!”  –

Easy Pickings; go for the Low-lying Fruit?

Choose wisely and you’re half-way ‘there’.  Far more than ever before, travellers are keen to become active participants in their chosen vacation and holiday spend. Our ‘time off’ for many of us, is far too valuable to waste paying for over-priced pints by the pool…for millions of us, we like the thought of ‘making a difference’, getting dirt under our fingernails or just indulging our very own hobby, or activities we’ve had brewing in our ‘bucket list’ for ages. Connecting the dots between the customer and their wish list translates to cash.

You Know, You Wanta Do it!  We’re Here to Help!

Surveying and reaching out to your current clients is the best way to stay engaged, and prospect for new business. You already know’ where they live’. Learning more about ‘what they like’ will set the stage for your success. Ask for revelations about bucket lists, and likes. Stay connected.

Lead By Example?

It might not be your ‘cup of tea’ to chase tornados, dig up gun-fighter’s gravesites in the ‘old west’, join-in among a ‘ghost hunt’ group or, bed down in haunted hotels but the fact is there are thousands of folks who are increasingly, overtly, over-the-moon to try something ‘extraordinary’ and ‘out of this world’ while on holiday! Canal Boats, cattle drives, chocolate tours, camel treks… the list goes on and on and … Pick and Plan any one you like, and get started. 

Need Specific Examples to prime Your Pump? 

Try These on For Size…we’ve smiled all the way to the bank…year after year after year with some.

How About …Happily Haunted Hotels?

The fasted growing segment of travel these days ‘rests’ (in peace?) in the meteoric rise of ‘Special Interest’ getaways. Just peek over the gravestone to the number of Ghostly Tours on offer worldwide and you’ll be astounded.

Last year alone, the number of hotels, bed & breakfasts, guest houses, Inns and ‘manors’ boasting resident ghosts has increased ten-fold. And it appears there is no ‘end in the sight’ to those ghoul-seeking guests who are ‘coming out of the closet’, ‘seeping thru the walls’ or vaporising around the ceiling chandeliers. It’s a lot of fun, with a few goose-bumps guaranteed.

If the tender-soft terry-cloth robe goes ‘missing’ from your room, just blame it on the room-sharing ghost. The hotel can simply bill the earlier occupants, even if they checked out in 1886!

Five years ago, we stumbled into a historic hotel in the middle of nowhere which was full to the rafters. The manager said they were hosting the fifth ‘Ghost Tour’ in the past month…The Tour Operator was a housewife with a passion for the notion, and discreetly turned her hobby into a handsome income. She was celebrating her 9th year in business, and boasting a 70+% return rate for her tours. Her other ‘passion and pastime was wild, Mustang Horses: next month she’ll be joining the Nevada round-up with 20 of her clients, keen to sit tall in the saddle…

Who the Hell Chases Eclipses?

I had no idea who an ‘Umbraphile’ was until I was standing in Harrison Ford’s 300 acre meadow, outside of Jackson Hole Wyoming.  I was surrounded by the Grand Tetons and in the company of about 200 cash-carrying veteran eclipse chasers. They’d booked 5 years earlier, to secure their spot, knowing the tour would sell out ‘early’. This special interest group spent lots of money and joined the tour toting gizmos and massive cameras that resembled bazookas. All with the passion of finding the very best viewing spot on the day. This single tour included four,  52 seater coach buses, four very varied itineraries to cater to time and budgets, and culminated on the site  for the less-than-one-hour of ‘totality’ and the ‘chance’ of a ‘perfect view’. On a cloudy day, Mother Nature can toss a spanner in the entire eclipse adventure. The tour’s ‘expert’ drew participants from everywhere. He’d spent years talking to his peers beforehand. All he needed was a Travel firm who could help him with the details. He’s partnered-up with the same outfit for the past 15 years and counting. When I asked him how he came to select the travel outfit connected to the programs’ success he said: “It was easy, they came to me asking if they could help me remove the headaches…”  “I do this not so much as an avocation, but as an addiction,” For the last eclipse our agent chartered an entire cruise ship, and we had the Captain hover in the middle of the Atlantic…we’re already planning for the next one together…”

Photo Credit: Mark Sheehan

Batter Up! Little League Baseball  

We’ve heard about this Clayfield Travel Retailer for years. They came to our attention through “Major League Baseball™ based in Sydney. “Some years ago my son was invited to join an elite group of junior baseball players to tour the West Coast of America.  As I knew the kid’s coach I offered my services as a travel agent to organize the flights, transport etc. This one booking turned into a referral gold mine, still generating business for us to this day.” – Peter

Photo Credit: Mark Sheehan

 My passion became Profitable – I whistle while I work…

“I have been a watercolour artist and tutor at a local art society for over 10 years.  One day I decided it would be great if we could get a group of my students together on a local cruise and I could hold classes for them on board. My students jumped at the opportunity, the cruise line was very accommodating and we are now planning the next one! And the one after that and…” – Kerry Fiske

Did you know that Silversea Cruise ships are all named after Rolls Royces?

Neither did the hundreds of Rolls owners and enthusiasts at clubs and associations around the globe! Until…a savvy Australian travel agent connected the dots for this common interest group. Making a marriage between motor-minded RR owners and offering special embarkations has fuelled significant awards for the i-travel consultant: “The light bulb went off, when I we made the simple observation that Rolls Royce folks, would be already inclined to enjoy a cruise. Put them all together on the same ship, create on-board lectures, mixers and events specially catering to them, and away we sail!’ The cruise company was fantastic, keen to expand our reach. I learned yesterday, through one of our other independent travel agents, that there are over 50,000 Maserati Club members we can reach out to…” Megan

Photo Credit: Mark Sheehan

Annual Tours for Antique Trucks?

Every year without fail, the Antique Truck Association of America hosts a massive, Woodstock-like gathering in a different city. The event attracts tens of thousands to see some of the best Trucks ever created.  A savvy incentive travel agent in Sydney created the link between her trucking and transportation clients and a revolving door of travel opened broad enough to drive many MACK trucks through. Groups are small, margins are not. Each year, 5,to 10 fully equipped recreational vehicles, a ‘trail boss’ and a full-scale touring program is developed that’s hub is centered around the Antique Truck Exhibitions.  Flights at the front of the plane, themed activities that cater to the group’s liking, VIP baseball tickets and entries and enhancements to ‘outside the box’ planning have created loyal return customers. Year in and Year out. “What began years ago now, as an incentive group booking to a Mack Truck conference in the USA, has evolved into an entirely new business for me. All because one of the customers in the Tasmanian trucking industry asked me how hard it would be to make a detour and attend the Antique Truck Expo…No problem!”  Marylyn

Photo Credit: Mark Sheehan

Motorcycle Madness? Yep! Crazy All the Way To The Bank!

‘Big John’ Cruwys (RIP) left UNITED Airlines to create Elite Set Tours more than 20 years ago. The idea was to invent itineraries for car buffs, motor-heads and other enthusiasts keen to take to the open road in the USA. Picture 150 Harleys leaving LA for a 21 day road hog’s festival in the Badlands of North Dakota for the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Madness.  His legacy lives on…and although they had to postpone, well-heeled bikers have ‘let the money ride’, even if they can’t this time around…there’s always next year!  – Terry Ann Cruwys

Harley-Davidson Photo Credit: Mark Sheehan

Musical Magic!

Without question, Glenn A Baker IS the undisputed musical bee’s knees when it comes to a one stop shop regarding ANYTHING at all about Rock and Roll.  So it was a perfect match to have him MC a coach tour created around the 50th anniversary of ABBY Road and The BEATLES. An up-beat travel agent reached out to a rock and roll radio network, and created an itinerary which put Mr. Baker at the front of the coach, making musical memories of the famous band come to life. The ‘money can’t buy aspect’ of a celebrity-led tour filled almost, overnight. Find a VIP with a following. And you’ll find full coaches.

No Need to Start from Scratch!

There is little to no risk in feeding into other offerings, of outfits that have already created a next in special interest travel. Simply add your customers to the ranks of already existing programs, Fill-in and follow the breadcrumbs already dropped for you to follow. The list of possibilities seems endless. Pick one of your liking and get started.

Pour a cup of coffee and subscribe to The Specialty Travel Index. It won’t be long before you’re connecting the dots to your own cash registers…

It’s a Wrap!

If we’re standing still, we’re not likely to be going anywhere at all…

We had the great pleasure of having Ted Turner serve on our Board of Directors in Charleston SC. Ted was the outspoken billionaire founder of CNN among other corporate monoliths, who was also known at one time as the guy that was married to Jane Fonda. Ted also challenged media rival Rupert Murdoch to a fist fight in Las Vegas. Rupert declined the offer.

Our Board was in a seemingly fatal nose-dive and lock-down, with most of the other, highly regarded and  well-heeled conservative Board Members keen to ‘just sit tight and ride out the storm’.

Ted’s response, delivered with a southern drawl, was straight-forward. A bit like a getting a needle in your eye: “Burying our head in the sand is a sure-fire way of getting our ass kicked!” His advice was brilliant then, and it’s even better now in our current Covid19 landscape.

We can’t change the landscape, but we do, have the power to alter the rules of engagement if we choose.  Kindly, get Cracking and, keep us posted please: we’d love to hear from you.

Observations from the Treadmill  by Mark William Sheehan


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