Does anyone watch The Amazing Race? Have you noticed the commercials for the Allure of the Seas? How about the new Disney commercial? I heard that Sandals has a new one out there too; but I have not seen it yet. Is this an indication that the Great Recession is finally over and people are again receptive to spending some bucks for a travel experience? Does this mean that our businesses will begin to trend up? Not likely if a prospect saw any of those commercials, the call to action is to call the vendor. Period. Not even the small “or call your travel agent” tag.
Having been in the industry for a while, it is certainly disappointing to see that most suppliers are slowly migrating away from the whole “valued partner” concept; but in some ways, I can’t blame them. Since 2001, business has been very tough for everyone and to a degree it has been every man for himself. Who hasn’t cut back on their expenses? Who hasn’t looked for a way to save a buck or two? For years, I have been saying that the industry is moving to a non-commissionable model where travel professionals will need to stand on their own two feet if they are looking to succeed. They are going to have to buy product at net, add value, and mark it up accordingly. It is the true retail model. And with that mindset, believe it or not, everyone will come out ahead.
The travel suppliers will have a reduced cost (no more commissions), the playing field will be much more level (not entirely, but a lot closer), and travel professionals will no longer be beholden to the whims of some cost cutting boneheaded CEO who may not even know how to spell travel. Give it some thought. Isn’t it refreshing?
Of course, this is a completely different mindset. But it is one that can start being implemented right now while you are still earning commissions. If you position your value in your market, you will have customers. Bring value to their experience and you have a repeat customer. Today’s consumer is not stupid. They know that when they buy online (any product) that it is the bare bones deal. I can buy a suit at Lord & Taylor and it comes on a nice wooden hangar in a nice cloth bag to keep it fresh and it comes with one of those lint roller gizmos. The salesman thanks me for my business and wishes me well. When I order it from their website, it comes in a brown cardboard box, wrapped in a clear plastic bag, thrown from a brown truck onto my doorstep. I know that. I get it. I have a choice. And I chose to buy from the store with the smiling salesman. In either case, the end product is the same, but the experience is entirely different.
But back to the three commercials (sort of sounding like an Old Spice commercial now), there was no tag to call your travel agent. I have never bought an ad on network television but I know they are really expensive and I would want to get the biggest bang for my buck. And I am pretty sure that suggesting that potential customers go someplace that will cost me is the way to go. As a business owner, if the phone rings and a customer simply wants to book a trip, what do you do? Do you work with the customer and book the trip? Or do you pass the customer off to an independent contractor that is earning an 80% commission split? I think you know the answer.
So how do we get tagged in these commercials again? I bet we will pay for the opportunity. Yes, I bet the co-op model will also change. Rather than the suppliers helping to fund our marketing efforts, we will see suppliers looking to be paid for their marketing efforts. You might think this is crazy, but it has been happening for years in media markets. Apple Vacations runs huge ads in the Sunday newspaper featuring all of their specials, at the bottom of these ads you will see a listing of several agencies in that market. Who do you think pays for that?