If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, radio, newspaper or Wall Street employee, you know one thing; the economy is taking a beating. I know my wife and I are looking for a nanny and it’s been tough finding good applicants…until a few days ago. Then, a barrage of applications came in. When I asked why this was happening, the lady at the agency said a lot of folks had lost their jobs and therefore, so did their nannies.
So, with this kind of news, can you assume the travel market will be impacted? Sure. That’s not rocket science. Some people WILL take a vacation however. More important, many people will PLAN vacations too. You need to be part of that planning. Sure it’s rough out there. But what are you to do? You have a few options.
- You can sit around, moping and complaining.
- You can dig in, cut all expenses and wait it out.
- You can come up with a well thought-out plan to take calculated actions in an otherwise depressed market and make the best of it.
Where’s my bet? Option 3.
I can tell you that the 45,000+ people who’ve visited Tripology.com are looking for travel SPECIALISTS, not generalists. So, if you want not only to survive in this market, but THRIVE in this market, I believe you need to differentiate yourself from every other travel agent out there.
It’s no secret that a professional travel adviser can be a travelers’ greatest asset when planning their trips. Often, a traveler is unsure about which destination(s) to visit, has a complex itinerary in mind, is unsure where to stay and how to travel from city to city, or is simply looking for the “local scoop” on a destination. Having a true “specialist” with destination expertise or specialized experience in a type of travel (like cruising, honeymoons, religious pilgrimages, small ship cruises, etc.) can certainly be an advantage. Now more than ever it is time to stand out from the crowd!
Here are some facts. A recent eMarketer research report revealed that consumers are frustrated with the limitations of planning and booking with online travel agencies (OTAs) because of their unfriendly booking engines and navigation tools (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea). Other studies indicate that a little less than half of consumers will research online, but not book. We think they’re looking for something in their vacation (some sort of twist) that requires speaking with a human being to book it.
So, from this we gather that consumers (at least the ones that visit Tripology.com) have a renewed appreciation for expertise and personalized services offered by travel specialists. I say “specialists” because they’re not just looking for “agents”. They want real expertise. They want to speak with someone who has been to the destination to which they are planning to visit.
At Tripology we continue to see a mostly positive trend in the momentum of consumer trip requests being submitted – a good indicator of what’s going on in the “long-tail” (i.e. unique, non-commodity) travel market. Why? Well, consumers are looking for travel specialists, not generalist travel agents.
Travel sellers need to leverage the investments they have made in developing their expertise and careers. Here’s another interesting fact we see time after time:
When responding to a trip request lead, the initial contact with a prospective client is key. Specialists who respond with the most tailored answers to a consumer request, and show they really know what they are talking about, invariably get the business. We’re also finding that even when they don’t get that particular booking – because a customer decided not to go or otherwise changed their mind about a trip – the specialist sometimes acquires them as customers for their next trip because they have gone out of their way to impress the potential customer with their expertise and experience.
Specialization is what we emphasize and continue finding that agents who best showcase their area(s) of expertise to prospective travelers are getting more and more business.
I’ve been proposing that now is the time to “get out there” with unique trips. So, here’s an idea; put together five sample trips – each with a twist. They should be unique and you should name them with eye-catching phrase like “Spa Girls Cruising the Med.” or “Drive the Tuscan Countryside.” Pick some unique “Out of the box” programs too. You have to make your existing and potential customers understand you are different from any other travel person or company they may look at. Email them a personal note in which you promote something unique. How about villas in Italy? They are more affordable than you think when you do the math dividing the costs between four couples. Or, promote cottages in the UK countryside. Take your pick. Vacation rentals are great way to offer something unique AND affordable. Ever been on a barge cruise in France? It’s the most wonderful experience and perfect for families with teens looking for culture. Have you ever take a yacht-cruise in the Greek Islands? There is no better way to see the smaller islands that the large cruise ships don’t even visit.
So, get off your duff and start making some calls. Call the specialty travel companies and tell them you want to start promoting their product to your clients. You’ll find more help being offered than you’ve ever imagined.
Then, when you’re ready to find new customers. Give Tripology a try. Our 8,500 travel specialists can’t be wrong. Hundreds and hundreds of agents find new customers with us every month.
John T. Peters joined Tripology as President and CEO in June of 2008. Most recently, John was Vice President of Business Development & Travel Trade where he led the successful launch of Endless Vacation Rentals by Wyndham Worldwide. Earlier in his career, John founded Zeus Tours & Yacht Cruises, an international yacht cruise/tour and hotel business that grew to over $50 million in sales with over 100 employees in offices in New York, Athens, Rome and Buenos Aires. You can learn more about Tripology at www.tripology.com