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Incorporating Blue Ocean Strategy into your travel practice

This article is Part 5 of a review of the concept of Blue Ocean Strategy for Travel Agents. Click here for the rest of the series.

One of the clear aspects of a red ocean market is the vast majority of participants are engaged in very similar activities.  Certainly this is true in the travel industry.  Most travel agents accept the general definitions and structures of the industry and then focus on incremental improvements in service or product knowledge to be “the best” at what they do.  As a result, travel agents too often find themselves in a competitive battle where the most important factor in the purchasing decision is price.

The secret to blue ocean strategy is to break through conventional thinking. The improvements in value to the customer cannot be incremental, but must be a true leap that leaves the competition behind. Blue ocean strategy is not a process of predicting upcoming travel trends or generating new “marketing” ideas.  Blue ocean thinking will move the smart travel agent away from travel product toward the individual traveler.

The beginning of a blue ocean strategy for your travel agency is not in the next great idea, destination or ship.  It is in a subtle but important psychological shift away from product to traveler, away from a transactional sales mentality to being a true consultant.
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As a travel professional, it is easy to be obsessed with travel product and the details of product knowledge.  However, much of what we know about any given product is of no real importance to the individual who wants a vacation or travel experience. By focusing on the client rather than the product, we can move to a practice based on relationships rather than transactions, focused on travelers rather than travel product.

Most travel consultants feel they are engaged in  “selling” travel.  If you share that perspective, then your market is a red ocean indeed. If, however, you break that conventional way of thinking, then your position vis-à-vis the traveler changes.

From the perspective of a consultant, you can begin to construct real travel experiences based on the needs of the client rather than on the limitations of travel product. Each planning exercise now begins with the client’s hobbies, passions and desires. The creative thinking arising from working with a client on creating the best possible experience is vastly different from the more restrictive competitive environment of sales.

Think of the many reasons people do not travel.  They perceive air travel as difficult and tiring. They are short on time. Foreign destinations require unfamiliar paperwork and may be dangerous. There are obligations at home. Most people don’t know how to assess a good travel value and thus are obsessed with internet research to find the “best deal”.

In short, travel is a mystery and a puzzle to many.  Thus, in addition to the population that knows and loves travel, there is a vast market of consumers who need and desire a better understanding.  Certainly this underserved market suggests a path to blue ocean strategies for travel professionals.

Client knowledge is more important than product knowledge. Solve problems.  Educate your clients.  Craft experiences with them. Become their travel mentor. Form a relationship built on their needs and desires.

Quit selling travel.  Help people buy travel. You only have real competition when you are selling, not when you are buying. A travel practice built on creative buying on behalf of clients is the surest way to sail into blue oceans.

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