Your Travel Agency

Direct Mail in a Digital World for Travel Agents

Written By: Tom Ogg



We all know that PPC, SEO, email, social media and a myriad of other forms of digital communication and marketing work to obtain new customers and to retain your existing customers. This does not mean that there are not other very compelling ways of using direct mail to achieve the same results of building your customer base and keeping them satisfied and happy.


Not everyone is addicted to Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter or FaceBook and this means that direct mail is a great method to reach this group of buyers. Direct Mail is a cost-effective way of communicating with potential and existing clients. A robust direct mail effort will allow you to maintain a continuing relationship with your customers and selectively offer your clients products and services that meet their specific interests.


Focusing on digital technology as your only means of communicating with your clients can be quite risky. Clients may have unsubscribed to your digital communications without you even realizing it. You run the risk that your email campaign may end up in spam folders rather than hitting the target and social media advertising has numbed the vast majority of clients and potential clients.


Here is why cruise lines, tour operators and others that have powerful digital marketing programs are turning to direct mail.

  • Direct Mail is on the verge of a renaissance and should not be ignored according to the Data & Marketing Association.
  • DMA found that direct mail achieves a 4.4% response rate compared to email’s 0.12%.
  • Direct mail marketing is highly targeted. You can easily focus on those in your database with rifle like precision.
  • Short run digital printing makes producing professional quality brochures, pamphlets, flyers, books, magazines, catalogs, post cards and other full color direct mail pieces are quite affordable.
  • A direct mail piece will last much longer than a digital communication and may have terrific pass around value. This is true if the piece is highly focused on a product the client shows interest in. A direct mail brochure on a river cruise group you are promoting to clients in your CRM will certainly be read, evaluated and passed around to other potential group members.
  • Direct mail can be highly responsive to opportunities. In today’s digital world one can easily create elaborate 4-color direct mail pieces and have them printed almost the same day. This allows exceptional opportunities to reach your interested client base with a high quality direct mail piece that will generate results from your campaign.


Developing Your Mailing Program

Your direct mail program should be a part of your overall marketing strategy. Besides periodic newsletter mailings and other forms of print and digital media strategies, your program should also include other direct contacts. Some thoughts follow about the various types you may consider.


Personalized Letters and Cards

Probably, the most effective way for a home based travel agency to market via direct mail is by using personalized correspondence. Let’s say you have developed a database of your clients, and all of a sudden you find cruise fares on a popular itinerary have been lowered to motivating levels. You can simply draft a personalized note to that effect, then sort your client list for those that would be interested in the new reduced fares and mail merge the two files. The result is a personalized letter, addressed to each individual client, advising them of the new fares they might find of interest. Clients love this sort of approach, and they will remember you for your thoughtfulness and proactive efforts.



Flyers on many topics can be designed and printed in full color on your personal printer, copied or printed, and sent to your clients. For example, when you discover a tour operator has introduced a special discounted package to Hawaii that is very motivating, a flyer announcing the Hawaii bargain may stimulate immediate phone calls. Designing a flyer around a special cruise, tour or resort discount deal may arouse your clients’ interest. They will call about the special and may possibly book something else as a result. Flyers designed to pass along local information are also helpful. Your clients are apt to keep and appreciate a map of your local airport arrival and departure terminals, a map and list of rates for off-airport parking, or other timely local travel information.


Advertisements, Reviews and Articles

When you see an advertisement, review or article in the newspaper, trade publication, yelp, TripAdvisor, CruiseCritic or any other print or digital resource, you can easily sort your client database for clients who have expressed an interest in that destination or product. Personalize a correspondence and share that with your clients. Make a copy of the piece, personalize it with a note letting them know you are watching out for their best interest. The same goes for articles and reviews that you can obtain on the web.



Often suppliers will share the cost of mailing their products or materials to clients on your mailing list. This is a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. You will benefit from the reduced cost of the mailing to your selected clients, and you also benefit from potential sales created by the endeavor. Creating your own color brochure for a special group or showing your FIT planning expertise in a capabilities brochure is a great way to spread the word to your targeted clients, as well.


Greeting Cards

Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, Secretary’s Week and anniversaries all represent opportunities to reach out to your customers. A specially designed greeting card welcoming your clients back home from their cruise, tour or trip is an excellent way to start them talking about their next vacation or journey. The best time to schedule a “welcome home” letter or postcard is when you are finalizing the client’s file and preparing to give the client documents. Simply fill out your letter, card or postcard, sign it, stamp it and file it in a tickler file to be mailed the week your client returns home. Every Monday check your calendar for correspondence that requires mailing that week. Your clients will love the attention and by all means make it completely personal. Nothing gets open and read as a hand written note or card.


Coconuts, Bottles, Wooden Placards and More

You can send virtually anything through the mail. If you are promoting a Hawaii cruise, send a coconut to those on your mailing list. If you are promoting a tropical island get-away, why not send a bottle with some sand and a personalized note inviting them to join the group? If you are organizing an Alaska cruise, then get some Alaskan wooden postcards from any curio shop in Alaska and send those. offers completely unique post cards that shout quality and demand to be read. You can have wooden coins made with your agency contact info on one side and a group offering on the other. Distribute them widely and you will be amazed at how these items draw results. Use your imagination to think of creative things you can find, purchase or manufacture to get the immediate attention of the recipient. Here is a simple list of ideas you can use.


  • Use oversize envelopes so that they stick out like a sore thumb when the recipient picks up their mail. Make the envelope itself an advertisement.
  • Use advertising specialties in the mailing to give a lumpy look and feel to the mailing. Recipients will open it just out of curiosity. Refrigerator magnets, keychains, pens, hand towels, canvas shopping bags, tee shirts and a myriad of other printed products will make for an effective campaign.
  • Use Fedex or UPS Letter sized envelops for your mailing, but send them through the USPS. When recipients receive them in their mailbox they will always open them and the USPS has no problem delivering them.
  • For your best client’s anniversary why not send them a personalized balloon in a box so that it looks like an anniversary gift. When they open the gift, out floats a personalized balloon from you wishing them the happiest of anniversary.


For a ton of ideas on client gifting be sure to read “Client Gifting” by Tom, Andy and Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC.


Cooperative Direct Mailings

There are numerous opportunities to gain resources by joining with either suppliers or other symbiotic businesses in doing joint mailings. Many suppliers will pay for the entire mailing, just to have their product flyer or brochure included with your newsletter. Realtors generally do regular mailings to their target market for the exact same reason as you. Find out if they are interested in doing an article exchange. You would supply them with a column of 250 words about travel that they would include in their newsletter, and you would include their 250-word column in your newsletter. This is an excellent arrangement, as both participants gain more exposure in the same marketplace.


Call to Action

Be sure every mailing you send has a direct call to action that prompts your clients or prospects to either email, message, phone or contact you through the mail. Postage included response cards and redeemable discount coupons are two effective ways to get your client to act. When using exploratory mailings, alw ays insist that your prospects either email or snail mail a reply or call you on the telephone. When mailing a series of pieces to an exploratory list, build in a mandatory response in order to continue receiving the mailing. If, after having sent an appropriate number of pieces, the recipient shows no interest and fails to respond to your call to action, remove them from your list.