One of the best aspects of being a travel professional is the fact the suppliers in the travel industry want you to succeed. Most suppliers know the value of travel professionals and their unique capacity to move a portion of the supplier’s inventory. What better sales force than one paid only when they make a sale? What tour operator or cruise line would not want an army of sales people knowledgeable about and capable of expertly representing their product? Such suppliers recognize that the best partnerships are not zero-sum games but an opportunity for the parties to each achieve their desired aims.
As particular travel products become a commodity, agents have watched profit margins fall as internet automation makes direct booking a relatively simple matter. In some sectors of the market, discounting is common though often officially forbidden. Mass-market cruises or trips to Las Vegas, once very lucrative travel products for agents, are examples of such commodity items. Basically, if a consumer can easily self-book it online – it’s a commodity. Certainly the travel agent’s expertise in choosing the right trip for the right client is still a key factor even in these products, but the profit margins have narrowed as more and more components have been made non-commissionable and as more distribution channels have opened to the public.
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Diminishing returns from familiar and time tested commodities are principles directly related to the Blue Ocean strategies we have been discussing for the past two weeks. As the competition for mass-market travel products becomes more crowded, you as a travel consultant and business person should consider the option of steering clients into new, more open waters. Perhaps small ship sailing, river cruises, humanitarian vacations, South America, Iceland, safari and soft adventure – activities and destinations where there is more breathing room and where the developed skill set of the professional travel consultant can shine. The clients of such lucky travel consultants learn about and see new destinations, new themes, new itineraries and new product. The suppliers who are open to forming exciting new opportunities are many – call them “Blue Ocean” partners.
The heart of Blue Ocean Strategies is Value Innovation – instead of an attempt to “beat” the competition at the game, a Blue Ocean Strategist will make the competition irrelevant by creating a value for the market that is a leap out of the red oceans. The more willing a tour operator or travel supplier is to treat you and your clients as individuals, the more latitude they offer for customization, the easier it will be for you as the travel planner to create new and distinctive values for clients. For that reason, it is important for you to seek out such suppliers and incorporate their programs into your business mix.
Be creative in the partnerships you establish. Don’t settle just for booking the product. Work with the supplier, learn their methods, build on their existing modes of doing business. Present them with a plan and be as creative with the supplier as you are with clients. Provide the supplier with value innovation and then expect the same in return. When you find the supplier willing to engage your travel practice in this manner, you have a very powerful ally.
Many of the suppliers advertising with TRO are a group of suppliers with which you can form such partnerships. Each has signed on with TRO specifically to assist with the development of marketing programs for travel professionals. They pay for the destination guides, the e-postcards, the TRO Community, the articles and videos you find in the TRO marketing library. They recognize the value of the travel professional.
Sure, the national economics still look a bit shaky. That’s precisely why you should be looking to form partnerships with suppliers motivated to help you succeed. If you need the name of a contact at a supplier, email TRO at email@example.com and we will provide you with the supplier contacts you need to form your niche market or to put together exactly the right FIT for your next client. TRO has its own partnership goals, and travel professionals like you are an important part of that equation. As you consider the arc of your business this year, give due consideration to forming a few Blue Ocean Partnerships – they will serve you well in your efforts to separate your travel practice from all others.