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95% of today’s travelers are mistaken

Have you ever heard of MMGY Global or Peter Yesawich? If not, take note, because you should. They are not your competition. They are not some new start up with the next new travel application. But, they have a firm finger on the pulse of the travel industry. MMGY is an integrated marketing communications company that is known for its strategic thinking, breakthrough creativity and innovation in marketing practice. The firm’s Research & Brand Strategy Group is also regarded as one of the most respected sources of insights on the emerging travel habits, preferences and intentions of Americans.

Peter Yesawich is the vice chairman of MMGY and is regarded as one of the most respected and insightful sources on the habits and preferences of American travelers. Virtually every major travel company seeks his insight. In a sense, he is the E.F. Hutton of the travel trade. And we ought to listen. 

Recently they released their 2013 Portrait Of The American Traveler (PDF), which is a snapshot of today’s consumer, their thoughts, and plans for the future.  And if their data is accurate, travel agents have a long steep road ahead of them to get back in the good graces of today’s traveler.

  • Only 4% of surveyed travelers feel that a traditional travel agency will have the best prices.
  • Only 5% of surveyed travelers feel that a traditional travel agency is the most convenient way to buy travel.

Number 1? Well, it’s pretty close, but should not come as a surprise—online travel agencies are in the lead with supplier direct websites right on their heels.

Yes, travel is a very large pie and there is a lot to go around, but according to this, retail agents are being put on a very strict diet.  So what can we do?

We need to do out best to turn around this misperception. And let’s face it, it is a misperception as traditional agents are still the largest distribution channel for most types of travel. On a national level, there are several organizations that should be able to help us get the word out—ASTA, NACTA, and OSSN. We should be contacting our representatives to these organizations and letting them know that this is an important issue.

If you are a member of a franchise or a consortia, contact the leadership; they may be able to put pressure on their preferred suppliers to assist with something more than the tag “or call your travel agent.”

And on a local level, wave the flags. Let everyone know just how effective you are at securing the lowest price and best value. If needed, change your business plan to be as convenient as possible for your customers and prospects. Encourage your customers to share their experiences on their social media channels—maybe run a contest or a referral program targeted to social media?  And speaking of media, don’t forget yours. Introduce yourself (without a pitch) to your local reporters (radio, television, print) simply to let them know you are there.  They all have dry spells and you never know when you will be able to quench their thirst for a travel story. Remember to make contact with both news and feature reporters so you will be at the top of their lists for breaking news (Asiana crash anyone?) as well as the leisure piece about travel trends.

Keeping our heads in the sand is not the way to go. 95% of the consumers, according to this study, feel we are an inconvenient and more expensive way to buy travel. Let’s prove them wrong!  We have work to do, so let’s get on it!

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