What’s Blocking the Growth of Your Travel Business

And no, 🦠😷🚫🤒🦠 is not what I am referring to here. Even given the current landscape, the general unease paired with the uncertainty about the future of travel, the feedback I’m hearing from the travel advisors I speak with weekly is that there is demand. Most agents say that they are busy. That’s not to say these agents aren’t struggling to build their businesses, but let’s set the global pandemic aside for the moment. 

Like all things, this too shall pass. The coronavirus might feel like an in-law who has seriously overstayed her welcome, but eventually, once we stop restocking the cupboards, it will get the hint and move on.

And what is left behind are the things we can control. Many travel advisors battle to build profitable businesses for reasons within their authority. And that’s a good thing. Because while Aunt Rona is in the back pantry scarfing down the last crumbs of Christmas cake, we can proactively put a plan in place for when the door hits her on the way out.


Here are the top 5 reasons your travel business may not be growing.

 1. You haven’t clearly defined your market

We’ve talked about creating an ICA in earlier posts, but it’s so essential that no top 5 list would be complete without mentioning it.

Your ICA is your Ideal Client Avatar. All sales begin with targeted copywriting. Trying to appeal to the masses is a lost cause. Your messaging becomes diluted. It’s not powerful enough to incite people into action. There are far too many travel advisors who continually pump out the exact same messaging, hoping that they might get lucky. Buy this Mexico all-inclusive for $999 or that Mediterranean cruise for $1999.

You might land a booking, but the amount of work needed to convert it, is disproportionate to the value of your time. 

Instead, define your market. Get granular. Know them inside and out and speak only to them. Use the language they use. Show up in the spaces they visit. Your messaging will land more powerfully, and your conversions will naturally multiply.

 2. You are afraid to pay for traffic.

Gulp – yep, time to open our wallets. We live in a time when social media allows us to grow a customer base organically. Generations of travel agents that came before us did not have this luxury. This is true. But…social media can offer a false sense of possibility. Sure…you can grow your audience via Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, but it’s a bit like planting a tree, watering it and then expecting a mighty oak to appear outside your front door in a week.

Your audience will grow organically, but most likely not at the speed that can sustain a business. The Golden Age of Advertising had its humble beginnings back on July 1, 1941. Since then, it’s morphed a thousand times over. From the first radio ad on the New York station WNBT to billboards on the Gardner to the back of bathroom stall doors at your local TGIFs. 

Some people think that paid advertising is not for them when they can post content for free on Insta, but that’s a shortsighted approach.

As the Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus expounded back in 184 BC…you gotta spend money to make money. Being Italian, I’m sure he said it with much more flair, but his wise words still ring true today.

You need to advertise strategically which can be broken down into two parts. Ensuring that you are reaching the right market and ensuring you have the right offer for that market. There is no sidestepping the importance of paying for traffic. 

Ensuring that you are reaching your ideal market

The beauty of Facebook is that it allows us to hyper-segment our messaging. We get the luxury of only paying to reach the super-defined target we choose. This is why it’s so important to define what that target market is. Every dollar spent then offers a return on your investment. As you get good at this, you will begin to see exactly how much you need to spend in order to get the volume of leads you can handle to meet your business goals. It’s just a mathematical equation, no more, no less.

Ensuring you are putting the right offer in front of that market

It’s optimistic to think that paying for an ad for an all-inclusive to Cuba will garner your hoped for conversion. There are just too many of these types of ads already glutting the market. I don’t believe that your money would be well spent promoting that type of holiday. 

But it would make sense to pay for an ad that markets an irresistible offer to your ideal client. Let’s say your ideal client is 50+, married, and loves boutique-style river cruising. An irresistible offer that would be worth spending money to promote would be a free e-book entitled…” 20 Insider Secrets to Getting the Most Out of Your Next River Cruise.” 

Take that offer and buy Facebook advertising that fits your ideal client profile. Respondents join your marketing funnel by getting added to your email list and you begin to massage them into highly converting clients.

And hey…I’m just saying Facebook because it tends to be the best fit at the moment for most travel advisors, but don’t underestimate channels like Tik Tok and now, Clubhouse. Tik Tok advertising is largely undervalued. Tik Tok today is what Facebook was ten years ago. Ideally, you want to be where your client is hanging out. But, as Tik Tok gains prominence, It’s worth it to pay to be ahead of the trend – always worth it.

Hands down, the biggest pain point I hear from travel advisors is that they don’t have enough leads coming in. And yet they don’t want to spend money. Stop waiting for organic social media growth. It can’t build a sustainable business. Bite the bullet and prepare to open your wallet.


 3. You aren’t converting the traffic you are getting

To be clear, I define conversions as anyone subscribing to your email marketing list. Typically, in the travel industry, we think about conversions only in terms of leads to bookings. However, in the world of digital marketing, “conversions” are all about your list. Most experts say…” If you ain’t got a list…you ain’t got a business.”

And Facebook is far from a one-and-done deal. Rare is a bird who gets Facebook advertising right the first time. You have to account for a learning curve. Don’t give up too soon. You’ll most likely have to tweak your message a few times and factor those costs into your overall marketing spend. At the very least, know that you are in good company. Invest in a course in understanding Facebook ads. Shalom Shillak has a free 5-day starter course that I took, which helped me get on my way. Plus, she sports a lovely South African accent that makes her a joy to listen to. 

If your Facebook | social media lead ads aren’t converting, it can only mean one of the following:

  • Your copy is off
  • Your image is off
  • Your offer isn’t juicy enough

In order to convert your target market, you need to show them that you can offer value without them having to spend a dime first. Giving free advice in the form of an e-book, a checklist, an insider’s report…these are the things that help you build your reputation as an expert and ultimately build trust with your audience.

This is why the $999 all-inclusive ads to Cuba don’t work well. There is no trust built – no loyalty fostered. You only build that bridge by showing your potential client that you have their back. And that you can offer them help with no expectation of anything in return.

 4. You aren’t asking for the sale

After you’ve proven your authority. After you continually show up with free advice and value week after week, you then earn the right to ask for the sale. Gary Vaynerchuk calls this the jab, jab, jab, right hook approach to business. With your email sequences, a good rule of thumb is to offer value, value, value and then with the fourth piece of communication…introduce your travel package perfectly curated for your market. 

By this stage, you won’t come across as salesy because you’ve built the foundation of the client/advisor relationship. And if they aren’t ready to buy at that moment…no problem, you go back to your value, value, value strategy. Eventually, these leads will convert to bookings.


  5. Your business isn’t scalable

I am a firm believer that business success is directly correlated with the value you offer. However, if you want the business to grow, your business model needs to be scalable.

Adding automation, which frees up your time and allows you to deliver more value, is critical. If we aren’t careful, mundane tasks can devour our time like a fat kid with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s so easy to fall into the trap that lures us into thinking…” oh that one thing won’t take up too much of my time, I’ll just quickly do it myself.” Instead, any task we do repeatedly…needs to be automated. 

Or hire a virtual assistant to help with office tasks that free you up to do the things that move the proverbial needle.

Or better yet, start building a team underneath you that will support you and contribute to your bottom line. This is the time to put a structure in place to support that environment when it becomes financially feasible to do so. 

And listen, I know it feels like this pandemic is going on forever, but countries are slowly starting to open up. People are eager to travel, so why not take the time now to build a solid foundation to support your travel business when things take off?

I’d love to chat with you specifically about your travel business. No strings attached. Let’s have a coffee over zoom. You can make an appointment below.

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Rick Boettcher
Rick Boettcher
1 year ago

Wow! So much good info here! Keep up the great work!

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