I once had a travel professional take me to task because I provided them with an article in USA Today which also contained advertising for other travel programs. That would never do, she assured me, because like so many other papers and magazines, USA Today was “filled with travel advertising.” Likewise, many agents will not link to travel articles that include the contact information of hotels or tour operators.
I believe many travel professionals sometimes work with an over-broadly image of their competition because they have failed to properly define their customer base and their proper relationship to their clients. To these few, the landscape is filled with competition. This perspective is informed by the idea that the travel consultant is “selling” travel. That is what Travelocity does, just as suppliers do. They sell travel with few frills, often based on price alone.
Thinking in terms of selling travel is a killer – it makes a commodity out of the planning exercise and makes price the most important component of the drill. Indeed, the focus on price absolutely corrupts the marketing posture (and disposition) of so many travel professionals. It is no surprise your clients focus on price – they are civilians with little understanding of the intricacies involved in travel planning, but you should not. Confronted with a quote from Travelocity, a supplier direct or a discounter, the unaware travel consultant launches in their own frantic internet search for an even “lower” price. As a result, we end up going to war on the wrong field of battle.
You are the professional. Don’t follow. Lead the conversation.
It is an absolute certainty that your clients are going to research the internet, read travel magazines and travel sections of newspapers and, in general, seek to become the well-informed consumer that we all pride ourselves on becoming. Don’t fear their research; welcome it, invite it, and encourage it. But have them bring their results back to you!