Whether it is wave season or the quietest time of the year in the office, travel agents should be consistently marketing. Marketing online is great, but it is equally important to “get out there” personally (stealing an old tag line from Royal Caribbean)? But where do you go, how do you get out there?
Everyone knows about bridal shows (and some of us run screaming in the opposite direction from them). So where else can we set up and get the word out about our agencies? Here are events that some agents have successfully participated in:
Sports conventions – there are people out there that travel to watch sports events (Super Bowl, World Cup, Stanley Cup Play Offs, Olympics, Wimbledon, NASCAR) and there are people that travel to play sports (golf, tennis, team tournaments).
Marathons, 5K runs – ever heard of The Color Run or The Electric Run? Check them out, as well as local city marathons and charity 5K/10K runs. Most marathons and runs have booth sponsorship opportunities available to businesses.
Home improvement shows, Boat & RV shows – I know this sounds counter intuitive, but if attendees have money to sink into boats (pardon the pun), RVs, or home improvements, they have money to spend on travel.
School fairs, community events, and shopping shows – anywhere a product can be sold, you can sell travel gift certificates or have a drawing to collect contact information for your email and direct mail campaigns.
Golf tournaments – ask a supplier to co-op a hole-in-one insurance policy with you. For a modest amount of money you can be the hit of the tournament.
To find events, contact your local chamber of commerce, city hall, convention centers, school districts, the YMCA, libraries, golf courses, any hotels that have meeting / ballroom space, and by asking other business owners which events work for them.
But don’t stop at organized events. Find the local businesses that are big enough to have their own cafeteria. Can you set up a table in the lunch room once a week from 11am to 2pm? How about talking to ethnic restaurants? Can you set up a small display in their restaurant (promote Italy tours in an Italian restaurant or a Christmas markets river cruise in a German restaurant)? How about a asking an Irish pub if they’ll host an Ireland Travel Night? Do you know a local upscale hair and nail salon that has available space? One travel agent rented a booth in the salon (paying whatever the stylists paid for a space), and set it up to promote a variety of destinations and suppliers to customers of the salon.
Offering yourself up to do presentations is another effective way to market your agency. Check with community service organizations (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis), retirement communities and senior citizen centers, your local library, and schools (talk to the career counselors). Offer your services to speak about a destination, spring break, a particular form of travel (i.e. an introduction to river cruising).
Most importantly, get out there, stay out there, be seen, consistently. Even during wave season, make a point of getting up, getting out, and getting noticed.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations she focuses on travel for 18 to 23 year olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.