Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Need Advice on How to Get More Inquiries.

I need your advice on how to get more inquiries generated by recommendations from past guests.

For the first time in at least a decade Costa Rica Expeditions needs more inquiries from travelers who want us to plan their vacations.

The reason that we have not needed more inquiries for so many years is that we’ve been terrible at selecting and training new trip planners. This meant that as of a few months ago we only had five trip planners who had an average of over 8 years of experience with Costa Rica Expeditions. It also meant that the bar for new trip planers was set very high and we had all the inquiries that we could effectively handle.

The reason we now need more inquiries is that recently we completely revamped the process for selecting and training new trip planners and it worked.

Without having to lower the bar, we now have three additional excellent trip planners.  That’s a 60% increase in capacity.

Recommendations Best Source of Inquiries

Our best source of inquiries is recommendations from past guests.  There are two main reasons for this:

1.   People who contact us because their friends recommended us have a much higher conversion percentage   than prospects from other sources.

2.  Friends of out past guests are even more likely to be delighted with their experience than prospects from other sources.

Since we have long recognized this to be the case, we are already doing everything we can think of deserve and prompt reservations.

  • We do everything we can to learn as much about each of our guests as we can and use that knowledge to craft the ideal vacation for each guests.
  • We reach out to all returning guests, ask for feedback on how we can improve.
  • Whenever possible we act on suggestions and reward the people who made them.
  • We specifically ask past guests to recommend us to their friend if they feel we deserve recommendations
  • We promise to give priority treatment to prospects who contact us by way of a friend’s recommendation.

These measures have worked.  Over the past 12 months we have gotten 146 bookings from friends of past guests.  Ironically, this is what makes getting even more inquiries from friend’s recommendations so difficult. If we could have thought of more ways to get more referrals we’d already be doing it.

And that’s why we need your advice.

I will gratefully send a bag of coffee to the person who I feel has made the best suggestion. I’ll also update you on what we try and how it works.

Share with Delicious Share with Digg Share with Facebook Share with LinkedIn Share with MySpace Share with reddit Share with StumbleUpon Share with Twitter

Leave a comment


(Required)
(Required. Will not be published)
(Not required)

4 Comments and 0 Replies

  • At June 25, 2011
    10:40:49 am
    Max Waugh said:

    Michael, I was worried when I first read the subject of this post, but I’m glad to hear that this is a “good problem” you’re having. And I find that referral booking statistic really impressive.

    A couple thoughts: Would you go so far as to offer greater incentives to your past guests for referrals? I’ve dealt with other tour operators that will offer “5% off your next tour for every successful referral,” and in fact we do this with our rental cabin in Montana. Given the sheer volume of referrals you’re already getting perhaps this is too drastic a step, but a more substantial incentive could prompt your customers to be more active in marketing on your behalf.

    Also, how often do you reach out to your past customers? I know there was an initial push to get folks to participate in this blog, but I’m not sure how many people still get the notifications regarding blog posts. If you have a large email database of past customers would occasional (1-2 times a year) emails notifying folks of CRE news or promotions help?

    Max

    • At June 22, 2011
      5:05:47 pm
      Meena said:

      Dear Michael I think the idea of brag cards is great .
      I would also suggest , giving a personalised Dvd to the guests , with their pics and a little note about your company . Would give a graphic incentive for theit friends to visit CR with your company .

      • At June 22, 2011
        3:01:21 pm
        Cheryl Schiarizzi said:

        Hi Michael~

        How about giving the guest’s “brag cards” — small 3×5’s or 4×6’s with your logo and contact info on one side and their picture on the other — maybe 10 each; all identical. That way when they are showing people their pictures at home they can give one away when asked about the trip. Who did you go with is always asked when I get home and then the guest could say “I went with Costa Rica Expeditions”. Voila – instant picture and contact into. That way the person leaves it all up to the recvg person and it isn’t pushy to sell Costa Rica Expeditions to my friends…. And I don’t have to waste time writing, researching the contact info!!
        Warm Wishes to you and your fabulous staff, Cheryl S.

        • At June 21, 2011
          11:42:28 am
          Tommy Galan said:

          Hi Michael,

          Here’s my suggestion: My Mom and Step-Dad recently took my sisters on vacation to Disney World. While they were there, they were able to send us a picture, right from a computer at one of the amusements. It took a family photo, super imposed it onto a Disney background, and they could send it to as many email addresses as they like.

          Taking from this concept, I think it would be a great benefit to give the Costa Rica Expedition guest an opportunity to make the recommendation in the moment, while still entranced by the magic of Costa Rica, and the quality of Costa Rica Expeditions. It may be something as simple as a free postcard service that you provide, or as technologically savvy as an internet card with a superimposed photo. Either way, I think it is best to leverage the guest’s excitement in the moment, before the airplane ride, airport delays, smelly car service, or anything else that pulls from the memory of the trip.

          Hope all is well, and see you soon!

          Tommy