Is your local travel Agent today still as relevant as they used to be around 10-12 years ago? With everything today being available online, easy access, larger choice of Hotels using Tripadvisor.com, booking.com or expedia.com or hotels.com for hotels and meta search sites like Kayak.com and skyscanner.com for flights what is the relevance of your local travel agent in todays world.
My experience on this is primarily based on the Middle East and Indian markets, small Mom and pop Travel agencies today have nothing in terms of value to offer. Clients do all the research, come up with the destination, what they wish to do and where they wish to stay and in a lot of cases they go direct and book it as well in some cases they ask their Travel Agent whom perhaps they have known for a long time to offer a competitive quote on an itinerary they have shortlisted, which brings us to the main point, what are these Travel Agencies offering that makes them special and relevant today? On price alone they can’t compete with the Giants and other Online Travel Agencies.
What are they doing which makes them different? In my opinion having observed and spoken to over 500 travel agencies, they are following the leader and trying to offer products which can be best described as copy cat products. They are reactive rather than pro active, they wait for the clients to come to them rather than going to the clients using Omni channel tools. Since they have not defined a niche they operate in, the requests they get are all over the place and they query multiple partners for the same requests and due to lack of knowledge and awareness (in most cases the clients know more than the agents) they end up losing the Business. (For my Representation & Marketing Company, Bigfoot for every 10 queries we received we only convert 1, as being a B2B service, we don’t sell direct to the customers but to other Travel Agencies.
Every year hundreds of travel agencies including some small OTA’s are shutting down because they offer nothing new and competing with the likes of Booking.com and Tripadvisor.com is not feasible. What is the future for such small Travel Agencies?
1) Innovate, choose a line of products which are targeting a particular niche and not everyone. Make them unique and special. Ask yourself a Question, If i was the client in that Segment what would I want to experience? Build that into the product/s.
2) Go out there and Market them, even the best products need to be sold, sell them where people are really buying and have a long term strategy for this. Doing short term activities has never gotten anyone any results. Professional Companies think ahead and think long term. What am I expecting from this product in the longterm. Is the Marketing bringing out the best of the product.
3) Educate not only your Team Members (this is the single biggest reason for failure, Team Members who would be guiding and selling to the Potential don’t know all the USP’s of your product) and your clients. This is a step where 99% of small travel agencies fail. They do not educate the clients about the USP of their products.
2019 would see some major changes and if you are not doing anything to stay relevant you would most likely not stay in Business.
Travel Professional with over 3 decades of Global experience, building DMC’s, TMC’s and Tourism Boards across Geographies. A passionate marketer since 2007 with core focus on Scaling up Travel Companies using power of Marketing