Recently, I have had booth space in 2 consumer shows here in my home town. While talking to people who stopped by, I was amazed at the number of consumers who said they booked their vacations online. I have said it before and I am going to say it again-travel agents and agencies need to show our value to the consumer. The average consumer thinks we don’t provide any real tangible value. They still think they are getting the best pricing doing it themselves.
How do you show value to consumers? Do you treat your clients like they are VIPs? Do you react negatively when they call you for a simple air request? Do you react negatively to budget consumers? Today’s budget consumer may be tomorrow’s upscale traveler. Everyone should follow the Golden Rule-treat others how you would like to be treated. Do we consistently do that? Do our negative thoughts affect how we treat others? I have heard all too often from clients they have contacted XYZ Travel Agency down the street and XYZ never followed up with them. Do you do that? I think at times we are our own worst enemies and are all guilty of dropping the ball at some point. We need to do better. Starting with our current clients and potential clients. We need to appreciate them, quirks and all. When we do that we will have not only happier clients but they will refer others to us.
Do you have something prepared when consumers ask you why they should book with you? If not, I suggest making a list of why you are invaluable to consumers. Practice saying them over and over until it rolls off your tongue effortlessly. Remember to be positive.
I would also like to see agents and agencies really work together to promote the value of using a travel agent. There is enough business to go around. We should not be scheming, plotting, rebating, and discounting to get business. When I am at a Show be it a Bridal Show, Consumer Show etc. and someone tells me they already booked their honeymoon or vacation with another travel agent—I don’t make disparaging remarks about that travel agent or tell them they made a mistake. I thank them for booking with a travel agent and wish them a great honeymoon, vacation or cruise. Likewise, I don’t say anything negative about the online agencies either. I reiterate my value and ask them to call me for their next vacation. Be and act professional.
Get to know agents in your community by attending local trade shows. Better yet invite other agents to have breakfast or lunch with you. One of my reps was telling me how home based agents in her territory had breakfast once a month. Join ASTA, NACTA or OSSN and get involved. Work with your local newspaper and radio stations and let them know your value. Contact the travel editor of your local newspaper and tell them you would like to see more pro agent stories. Work with your account executives to improve editorial content in your local travel section. Newspapers are looking for ways to increase circulation and advertising—this is a great opportunity to partner up. Be proactive on social media sites. When you see a question posted on linkedin why someone should use a travel agent jump in and answer it. There is a field where you can select other experts on the topic—put agents names in that field who are linked to you so they can answer as well. Likewise use Facebook, Twitter and your blog to promote not only your value but the value of travel agents.
If we all work together we can help educate the consumer of our value it’s a win-win for everyone.