Who really needs a travel agent these days? After all, almost anyone can search online and find their perfect holiday in a few minutes. Or find flights and hotels separately and save themselves a heap of cash.
How do you market yourself when your potential customers are convinced they don’t need you anymore? Here are a few things to focus on…
A travel agent is a human search engine
You’re never going to convince people who go to the same hotel every year that they need a travel agent. However, for the ones who prefer a bit of variety the amount of choice available can be absolutely bewildering. Their criteria could be anything from the wide ranging (‘somewhere hot’) to a detailed list of the type of accommodation they want and the activities they’re interested in.
An internet search can help them to narrow things down but it will never be able to listen to their needs and combine them. They might want the convenience of a short flight to give the kids a holiday on the beach in Majorca, but without having to spend your time away with a load of lager louts. Your local knowledge can find that for them.
The personal touch
When you sell a holiday, you’re not just selling a holiday. You’re selling a dream. Your customers come to see you with a vision of how they want their holiday to be. An IT system might allow people to book easily but it’s not going to sell them the right thing. It will allow them to search but it won’t talk them through the options afterwards.
There’s also a lot to be said for having a single point of contact throughout the whole process. Whether you have a query before you go away or if there’s an emergency during your holiday, it’s reassuring for people to know that they have someone to call. They’re not going to be on hold waiting for a helpline to answer or trying to get an email response in the middle of the night. That’s incredibly reassuring when the news has been full of people being stranded because their airline went bust.
Some customers are complicated
As a travel agent you’ll get customers for all sorts of different reasons and your marketing should cover them all. You can help the people who can’t choose, the ones who haven’t got time and the ones who just need a bit of looking after. Your marketing can talk about the ways that you make life easier. You can also tell them about specific deals to save them money. When you’re an independent travel agent people buy from you because they like you. They trust your opinion. That’s great for your marketing because you can feature places you’ve been and loved. You can even use video to show people around when you travel.
Of course, some people’s lives are more complicated than others. I was at a seminar recently with a group of travel agents and a representative from Easyjet. Whilst most of Easyjet’s bookings are made direct they still rely on travel agents. Without a travel agent they wouldn’t get bookings from people with complicated itineraries who don’t want to deal with the logistics.
Talk about IT
As a travel agent you still use technology as part of the service and you can emphasise that in your marketing. It’s not a choice between old school and new technology. You can combine the two and get the best of both worlds. There could be a few months between booking and holiday. Technology allows you to stay in touch with the customer and maintain the relationship. If you aren’t already, you could send information about the resort and any excursions before they go. That gives you something else to talk about on Facebook too.
Is business booming for you? How are you marketing your business in the age of online bookings? Leave a comment and let me know!
The reasons you still need a travel agent:
And a piece looking at both sides: