The Sunday travel section of my local newspaper was losing advertisers. Not only that— the content was lacking imagination. Circulation was down as it is with a lot of newspapers across the country. In an effort to boost lagging advertising revenue the new account executive reached out to the travel agent community for support and help. She scheduled meetings with the editorial staff to find out what we as travel agents wanted from our local travel section. We agreed that they needed to be more pro-active in promoting local travel agencies and advertising rates needed to be more affordable, especially for smaller and home based agents. Soon, the new rate sheet reflected more affordable advertising and the possibility of sharing advertising among smaller agencies. This was a win-win situation for travel agents. We are continuing to have ongoing meetings to improve content. The end result is a revamped travel section that will benefit local travel agencies.
While I look at the paper’s spirit of cooperation as a good move, I think we as an agent community have a long way to go. Working together in a spirit of cooperation is in everyone’s best interest. There is plenty of business to go around. We should not be undercutting, rebating or making negative comments about other agencies or agents to get a sale. This just defeats the purpose and makes us all look bad.
Collectively, as a group we need to promote our value to potential clients. We need to be pro-active in getting the word out on what we do and why we are better than the large online agencies. We need to reach out to Gen Y and those that grew up with the internet. I did a search on travel agents on twitter and was amazed at the number of threads questioning the worth of travel agents and if we were still around. We need to work to change negative perceptions.
Likewise, we need to be on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn tooting our horns and telling people we still have value.
I answered a question yesterday on LinkedIn posted by someone wanting to know why use a travel agent when they can book on-line. This is a good chance to educate people about our value. Likewise, when I give a presentation to my local networking group, chamber etc. I always mention our value. Your 15 or 30 second elevator pitch should reflect your value as well. When someone asks what do you do don’t just say I am a travel agent. Have a short spiel highlighting what you do and, more importantly, what your value is.
Lastly, join ASTA, NACTA, OSSN or one of the many groups out there that support the travel agent community. Let your voice be heard on important issues. Get involved. Don’t just sit back and wait for someone else to do. Organize a grass roots effort among agencies in your community to promote each other and pool resources to advertise our value and why people need to use us. Participate in online forums. Attend trade shows. Call up another agent in your city and have lunch or coffee. By working together to promote our value we help not only each other but the industry as a whole.