Foreign travel is most appreciated while you are ambulatory. We do a lot of it, or at least did before the pandemic lockdown. We expect to resume without missing a beat. Although we shop around for the best prices on airfare and hotels, we often get the royal treatment. Here are a few of our secrets.
- Dress well. This sounds so obvious, but it goes over many people’s heads. We fly coach, yet I always wear a jacket and tie. My wife is similarly attired.
What happens: Long-haul international flights are often staffed by veteran flight attendants. They remember when people dressed up and flying was an occasion. They notice well dressed people. Flight crew wear uniforms. By dressing well, you are showing them respect.
- Smile and make conversation with the crew. Many people see flight attendants as flying serving staff. They ignore them or take demands. When we fly, we address them by the name on their badge. We ask where their home base is located. We tell them where we live.
What happens: You are treating them as fellow human beings. You are messaging “we are peers.” In many cases they take notice of you and give extra attention.
- Chocolate truffles. When we travel to Asia, we pack at least a dozen half pound boxes of handmade truffles from out local chocolate shop. One box is for the flight crew. After most people are seated, but before takeoff, I walk forward and ask to speak with the purser aka (chief cabin steward). I introduce myself, explain I don’t want anything, and hand over the truffles to be shared among the flight crew. I usually mention we know they are safety officers who happen to serve drinks.” Usually they ask our seat numbers. (I have a business card with our names and seat numbers on the box.)
What happens: Sometimes nothing. Sometimes an upgrade. Other times it’s been champagne from first class, or this comment from the flight attendant on our aisle: “We’ve been told to give you anything you want.”
At the Hotel
- Designer luggage. The best travel advice came decades ago. We were told: “If you are going to travel internationally often, invest in Louis Vuitton luggage.” That’s because when you arrive at a foreign hotel, lots of decisions are made about you between the time you enter the lobby and you reach the reception desk. If you dress well and have great luggage, all those decisions are good.
What happens: Assuming you are polite, some things might go in your favor. They might have a room available before the official check in time. They might offer an upgrade, especially if you give a reason for the visit, like celebrating your anniversary. Sometimes nothing happens.
- Assume you will return. Some people take a “one and done” approach. They won’t be back in town or staying at this hotel again. We assume we will be returning. We meet the management staff that works in the reception area. We tip the concierge when they help us. We leave a tip for the maid in the room.
What happens: Sometimes nothing, but you are laying the groundwork for future visits. You have the business cards of a couple of managers. Before your next visit, you get back in touch.
- Water flows downhill. This ties into point #5. If you’ve had a great experience, write a letter to the president of the company. Tell them what made it special and about the care and attention you received. Mention the names of the managers whose cards you saved. Mention the staff members you met.
What happens: Several factors work in your favor. Almost no one writes letters anymore! Yours will stand out. The few people who write letters are complaining. Yours will stand out. You might get a letter back. Most important, the district manager for that city and the hotel general manager will likely get a copy from the home office. These complimentary letters often go into employee personnel files or get them other recognition. This paves the way for your next visit.
By taking the simple steps of dressing well, treating people respectfully and being appreciative, you stand out from the vast number of tourists traveling at the same time.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.