Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Selling Moments as Memories: A Personal Story

I recently wrote this column which appears today on the TravelPulse (http://www.travelpulse.com/opinions/column/selling-moments-as-memories.html). I wanted to also share it here on my personal blog, as it is a personal story that provides insight into what is most important to me as both a business owner and in my own daily life. On a recent visit to a top luxury hotel in Honolulu, it was a sweet note left on my pillow at turndown the first evening that reminded me what is most important in my life, as well as in my business as a luxury travel advisor.

That note said, “You will remember the moments, not the days.” I thought to myself, that’s exactly what we want our clients to take home from every trip we plan for them—reminders of the very special and unique moments they enjoyed while they are traveling. I realized that what I remembered from that particular day was sitting on the hotel’s beautiful terrace at sunset with a loved one, enjoying live Hawaiian music and a delicious cocktail. I also remembered the five-mile hike we took along the ocean that morning, and the gluten-free French toast I had for breakfast in a gorgeous oceanfront setting.

The Zen shiatsu massage I treated myself to that afternoon was so fantastic that I rebooked another with the same therapist a few days later. It wasn’t just the massage I remembered, it was the kindness and compassion of the masseuse when I told her my reason for taking this mini-getaway. I was actually on this trip as a much-needed escape from everything I’d experienced the previous few weeks. My mom had recently passed away after a long battle with breast cancer, and I truly needed a few days in a beautiful setting with no agenda other than taking some time to relax.

I kept thinking about that note on my pillow, and it actually came up in conversation over dinner with the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. He explained that creating moments was tantamount to the success of his hotel. It also was a practice the entire staff was encouraged and empowered to do.

I shared with him the story of how touched I was when I returned for my second massage in three days and went to say good-bye to the therapist I adored. She had read me so well that she asked if it was okay to give me a hug. It was as if we were old friends, and she knew exactly what I needed. I can’t remember any other hotel spa experience where the masseuse hugged me to say good-bye, but it was completely appropriate (and memorable) in this situation.

As specialists in “luxury” travel, we need to constantly stay focused on reading our clients and deciphering what kind of moments we can create for them that will remain top of mind as memories. Whether it is suggesting an off-the-beaten-path local restaurant that you’ve personally experienced (I find that clients love when I do this) or knowing just which guide to hire for a particular client, you need to figure out just what will make the trip a special experience. You can steer your clients to a cool local boutique or maybe simply remember to share their dietary preferences with the hotel so they are wowed by the details. Regardless, it all falls to us to make sure we are constantly creating special moments.

As I look back on my most recent trip, I also recall special moments like walking on the beach at sunset and throwing a lei into the ocean (a Hawaiian friend told me that this is a ritual to partake in when you lose a loved one). I also found myself sitting on my lanai and watching the whales frolic out in front of me. That also proved to be a memorable moment since it is not something you are lucky enough to see every day.

Fortunately for me, three of my clients were also in town over the same dates, and so I took them to lunch at one of my favorite local restaurants. They were impressed that I knew exactly where to take them and it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know them better. Taking the time to meet my clients in person gave them the opportunity to see how much I appreciate their business. It also was really cool to hear about the various moments I’d help create for them over the years—including multiple birthday celebrations!

Regardless where we are sending our clients, we can never lose sight of the importance of crafting moments that will translate not just into memories , but also into reasons for them to remain loyal to us. We want to ensure that they call us every time they are looking to plan a trip filled with memorable moments.

Note: A version of this column appeared in the March 2014 edition of Agent@Home Magazine.