Building long-lasting relationships in South America, part 2 of 2

Sales Tips to profit from high potential markets

In Part 1 of this series I shared with you some of my sales experiences in travel & hospitality and also reviewed the initial aspects to be worked on to help secure your success when doing business in South America.

We covered the initial points to be assessed in relation to qualifying a productive contact list and also some of the most important business etiquette to be taken into consideration and that would prevent you from doing costly mistakes.

Part 2 is equally exciting covering aspects related to establishing productive and long-lasting business relationship with your buyers in South America.

 

Un-Dangerous (Well-built) Liaisons”

When I ask visiting hoteliers their opinion on “what are the main differences when doing business in South America?” the expression RELATIONSHIPS is usually at the top of the list.

Travel professionals in Latin America place a lot of weight on the importance of developing a solid business relationship with their selected suppliers. It is through these liaisons, and the trust you are able to build up, that you can better position your hotel and start seeing the bookings flowing.

The power of relationships is therefore something you should always keep in mind and nurture. The best tips to develop and strengthen these relationships are, above all, to be honest about the highlights as well as the weaknesses of your property. Other important guidelines are:

1) that you are flexible to confirm special requests;

2) that you show genuine interest in creating memorable experiences for your guests;

3) that you train your hotel´s staff about the cultural differences of the South America guests, and

4) that you efficiently solve problems with the guest´s stay when these occur

 

“Tell me your story”

One of my favorite parts of doing business in South America is that travel advisors in the region are truly happy to welcome hoteliers from other countries, and they show it.

They sincerely appreciate that people from other countries come to visit them to present their products. “Putting a face to the hotel” is a great value. In appreciation to your visit, you will receive a welcoming smile and the travel consultants’ full attention during the meeting.

My visiting clients are always surprised by seeing the senior consultants taking a lot of notes during the meeting-presentation. Agents want to profit from your visit by gathering as many details as possible to be able to transmit those details when offering your hotel to their clients.

Don´t be surprised if they interrupt you during your presentation to ask questions and also if everybody in the audience is talking at the same time about issues related to your presentation. It feels like being in a classroom and have the whole class talking.

My best advice is to prepare your speech based on the details one cannot find in your website or in other platforms. I am shocked when I hear DOSs talk about bathroom amenities, gym facilities and number of rooms during a business meeting.

I always recommend to emphasize aspects such as your hotel´s personality; what makes it unique?; why should your hotel be booked over your comp-set?

Agents in South America truly value when in addition to the hotel´s general details, you tell them about the attractiveness of the neighborhood where your hotel is located, new attractions in the city, popular shops, hot ticket theater shows, new-trendy restaurants and major events such as concerts and art exhibitions taking place in your city.

Lastly, when talking with travel consultants you will soon notice that most of them do not always feel comfortable when asked specific details about their business such as production, how many nights they book in your city or which hotels they book.

 

“Latino´s Travel Culture”

When I plan sales missions for visiting hoteliers, I always provide them beforehand with an overview of travel patterns and general facts related to the local culture.

When assessing the potential of the region, one fact to consider is that most countries have large populations, however, they have a reduced portion of the population being able to afford international travel. The size of the travel population is obviously larger in Brazil and Mexico which have the largest populations in the region and have biggest (pre Covid-19) economies.

Also, don’t be down in the dumps if you see fully booked flights from South America arriving into your city and not getting a larger share of hotel bookings from the feeder market.  It is likely that a large percentage of the passengers in the plane will be staying with relatives or friends thus reducing the number of hotel reservations.

Additionally, I always highlight that Latinos travel from weak or unstable, currencies (Pesos, Reais, Soles) into stronger-solid currencies such as euro and US dollar. This impacts the perception of value and of the total cost to plan a trip to your city.

In other words while you might think that a nightly rate of USD 200 plus taxes, or a breakfast for USD 25 per person, is an unbeatable bargain, it will look as a huge number when the South American traveler converts to their local currency in order to have an idea of the cost in the country´s currency.

Also consider that most South Americans need to get a tourist visa which can cost over USD 100 per person thus impacting the total cost of the trip.

 

“Take my money & Do me a favor” 

The request for pre-payments and special favors is another aspect that continues to surprises most hoteliers visiting South America.

Many cannot understand the reasons behind a traveler not wanting to use their credit card at check out time. The high demand for pre-payment is related to an aspect mentioned previously and that is the fact that most currencies in South America are weaker/unstable in relation to the USD or EUR.

So in their minds, the South America travelers are scared that their country´s currency is devaluated while they are travelling, which will automatically cause an increase in their total travel disbursement. Additionally, it is not uncommon that the client´s credit card is blocked without previous notice by the bank for security reason, causing many inconveniences to the traveler while abroad.

With regards to “special requests”, the comment I often hear from hotel sales directors is that they feel as if every single traveler is a VIP client of the travel agency.

When we talk about “special requests” the favors will range from an early check in/ late check out to requesting a welcome note on behalf of the agency.

Often times we help our clients with the translation into Spanish of their standard welcome letters and provide the hotel with the name of the agency´s travel advisor to be included in the welcome note sent to the guest upon arrival.

As simple as these touches may sound, it is always a very nice surprise for the guest. The matter of special requests has to do mainly with two facts:

1) travel agents in South America have a very close relationship with their clients and are fearful to lose a client due to a problem during their trip, and

2) It is more common when the travel consultant is selling an independent hotel (versus a standardized chain hotel).

Therefore, allow me to stress the importance of training your hotel´s staff about understanding the cultural difference of the South America guests, so that your team can deal with these aspects efficiently. It is useful to highlight if you have Spanish speaking employees in areas of guest-contact.

 

Quick TIPS:

  1. Often times, a business deal closure might run behind schedule as things can take longer to be completed. South Americans simply have a more relaxed way of life.
  2. Every time your hotel sends a new sales manager, you can expect the relationship to go back to the starting point.
  3. English is widely understood but not necessarily spoken. Speak slow, clear and do not use slangs
  4. Your best option is to have a local representative who knows the culture and speaks the language.
  5. The larger travel agencies put great value if you offer an “exclusive” benefit to the agency´s clients. It can be something as simple as a welcome drink or fruit basket.
  6. Non-refundable deals are usually NOT the most popular option when clients are looking at your special offers.
  7. South American travellers plan their trips well ahead of time so make sure you launch your special offers for shoulder periods 3-4 months in advance. Last minute offers are usually not very successful.

 

 

Oscar Gomez

Oscar Gómez is an expert multicultural sales & marketing consultant in global hospitality who has held various positions in hotel development, global sales, marketing and customer service. In addition to the experience in the sales field, he has also been lecturer in several private universities in his native Dominican Republic.

 

WHEE-Creative Hospitality

is a representation & consulting company for the hospitality industry dedicated to helping travel-related companies in their growth and successful positioning in South America. WHEE is co-founder of the World Hospitality Alliance.

 

 

 

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