Many of us in the travel industry have researched the trend reports for 2011. If you had to sum up a strategy for success, one word would apply: Specialization. Many travelers still reserve their weekend getaways or holiday packages online, but they also continue to rely on travel professionals for complex itineraries and destinations – and the trend is growing.
Specialization requires an in-depth knowledge of a destination that can come from education, personal experiences, or both. When I started my agency, Sodha Travel, it was (and remains) my mission to go beyond selling a tour package or customized itinerary to the Indian subcontinent. It is about familiarizing the traveler with the destination, setting realistic expectations, and most importantly, being an advocate. As countless testimonials, phone calls and emails can attest, the Indian subcontinent is an area where specialization is not only appreciated but fundamental.
Let’s be honest. Online sites will continue to emerge exponentially and advertise the lowest price, last-minute discounts, buzz-worthy deals and airfare guarantees. Although my prices are competitive, I have never publicized my agency as offering the lowest price. Instead, I demonstrate the value in my services. If a potential client forwards me a cheaper proposal, I respond with a list of questions to ask the other agency. After comparing the cost vs. benefits, many travelers appreciate the expertise and advocacy that I offer.
Although I coordinate packages to other destinations upon request, my focus remains on India and beyond. And – gasp!-I have turned down clients because I am not familiar with the area they wish to visit. For many agents, this is considered foolish. (You can find a supplier! This is throwing money away!) However, I believe that an important part of being specialized is remaining committed to the region. If I don’t have a strong relationship with a trustworthy supplier who services Scandinavia, for example, I will respectfully decline my client’s request for a package to Scandinavia. Truth be told, the clients appreciate this honesty.
Another benefit to being specialized: Advertising. Never again do I need to pay unnecessary dollars promoting my services in a generalized magazine, newsletter, or site. Instead I focus on publications and media outlets that cater to my niche. I have in fact very successfully used Tripology as a resource and it has provided me the opportunity to connect, converse and create with a diverse clientele of people worldwide. Those travelers looking for a specialist complete a trip profile and are then matched with qualified agents who service their destinations. It is an invaluable tool for connecting with potential clients who are already interested in traveling to my destinations. The leads become clients, the clients become satisfied travelers, and the satisfied travelers become referrals!
Cheers to exciting opportunities and new adventures in 2011!
Allison Sodha is an India Destination Specialist and the owner of Sodha Travel, a company that coordinates travel services to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. She has also written features for Little India, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and various travel blogs.