When I last left you, I extolled the virtues of travel agents as a whole, and how we are very much alive and well and relevant! And I am proud that I am a frontline agent for one of the most successful and reputable travel agencies in my area. But the very definition of my role has morphed over the years: long-gone are the days of people finding you in the yellow pages, or walking-in from off the street.
Today, we live in a society of “DIYers” to be sure – and travel is no exception. The advent of the Internet has enabled people to become their own travel agents–if they dare. Certainly, the “point-and-click” mentality can work well for something as simple as point-to-point airfares; but little else. I believe in the adage “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client” when equated with travel planning. Yet many people are willing to take this same kind of risk when booking their own vacations. Why would they want to, when they have us? The answer, I’ve discovered, is quite simple: most people think they have to, because travel agents are a thing of the past.
Recently, a young couple discovered our office by accident while on their way to a local tuxedo shop. It turns out they’d been shopping online for a honeymoon for months, and were no closer to a decision than when they started. Overwhelmed with choices, and quickly running out of time, they saw our sign from the street, and called us from their car:
Me: “Thank you for calling Viking Travel! This is Linda; how may I help you?”
Them: “Are you a real travel agency?”
Me: “Yes, indeed, we are! How can I help you?”
Them: “Oh my goodness! We are so happy to find you! We didn’t even know there were such things as travel agencies anymore! My fiancé and I were driving by, saw your sign, and we really need help with our honeymoon planning! Are you available to meet with us now?”
Luckily, I was and I did. After about an hour of consultation with me, I had two very relieved, grateful, and happy lovebirds booked on the honeymoon of their dreams – and I had closed a $5,000.00 sale.
Today more than ever, it’s not just about the service we provide, but also the knowledge that we have, and the integrity we maintain. All three qualities are the “intangibles” that you can’t get from a computer screen, or a toll-free number to suburban Mumbai. They are the “tangibles” that you get with an actual person with whom you can meet and converse –one that answers your phone calls immediately and has a personal interest in your travel experience. Spreading that message–by the web, by social media, by word of mouth, and even good old traditional advertising, must become our mantra. For my office, I have found no “magic bullet;” but marketing success comes from a combination of them all.
But there’s always room for improvement; we just need to keep learning and keep finding ways to tap into that part of the market that has written us off as extinct!” Until then, the beat goes on, and we will continue to share more ways of effectively growing our business together.
Linda Furlan is a career Travel Consultant with over 30 years experience as a front-line, brick-and-mortar agent. She is a MCC Cruise Specialist employed by Ensemble-affiliated Viking Travel Service/The Cruise Shop (www.cruise-shop.com) in Naperville, IL – celebrating their 40th Year in business in 2011. From Corporate to Groups to Leisure to middle-management, she’s seen and done it all – but becoming a niche specialist in her favorite genre – Cruising – has been the most fulfilling. Linda also recently combined her passions for travel, writing, and photography by starting her own Travel Blog . She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (630) 357-7447.