What are the most important things your website should showcase, do you have any organizational tips and what are the top 3 things that make a travel agent stand out among the crowd?
Thanks for connecting. This is a good question. Actually, let me upgrade that to a “great” question.
Before I even dive into a top three, I want to assure you that your site does not have to compete with online travel agency (OTA) giants like Expedia. Competing with OTAs was one of the most-frequently reported challenges in our 2018 Travel Agent Income Survey, and I’d really like to put this fear to rest.
Travelers who book online spend a bonkers amount of time researching and planning a trip. The planners who will find your travel agency website are most likely those who are frustrated with that experience. They are people who have heard of you through referrals, word of mouth, or a local Google search. They’re seeking support and expertise in planning and booking their vacation–not a one-click travel booking experience.
My very wise colleague Bridget said, “I find agents more often try to mimic OTAs instead of spotlighting their small business personality.” I cannot agree with her more heartily. So, as you move forward with your own website, focus on what makes your agency unique in terms of your niche and the excellent customer service you will provide.
It was a challenge for me to come up with only a Top 3, so I had to include a bonus track.
1. A Strong Bio: Especially with small businesses, you are your brand. Visitors want to get to know you. A strong bio, one that is professional and personal, will go a long way toward forging relationship with someone who will hopefully become a loyal client. When you write your bio, go a step step beyond listing all your professional accomplishments–education, years working industry, professional background, awards or certifications, etc. Be sure to also include information that will set you apart from other travel agents to give your website visitors a sense of who you are. What makes you passionate about the industry? What is your connection to your work? What inspired you to start a travel agency? What connected you to your niche?
We have an article on creating an elevator pitch that asks questions that also apply to writing a strong bio for your website! Go check it out to help spark some ideas!
2. Custom Images: Just as the written content will be stronger if it’s personalized, so will your photographs. When you put a headshot in your bio, make sure it’s professional-looking (read: no blurry cell selfies, no matter how tempting it is). Does the photo reflect what kind of travel you sell in some way? Do you use the same photo across social platforms, so it becomes identifiable? Does it say something about your personality or your niche? Photos are another way to make yourself distinct and to present yourself professionally. In fact, I feel this way with all images on travel agent websites. I’m personally turned off by travel stock photos on travel agent sites (though I’m certainly guilty of using them!). They are impersonal and don’t say anything about an agent’s personal travel experience.
3. Engage, engage, engage: Now that they’re getting to know you, what is on your site that will continue that relationship? Consider including some kind of Call to Action (CTA). Can they sign up for a monthly newsletter or email from you? What on your site will encourage them to take another step to connect with you?
4. Testimonials (the bonus track): Your site will show that you are a real person, so it may as well show that you are working with real people too! Include a few testimonials from happy clients. The more specific they can be about how you made their trip great, the better! If a client sends you a glowing email after their vacation, ask if you can blurb it and put it on your website!
I realize these aren’t particularly organizational tips. We have an article on building websites that reviews some of the structural elements of a website you can consider for your travel agency.
I also have links to two travel agency websites that I find particularly impressive: IntroverTravels is not only well-designed, it deeply engages with its visitors in every way . . . I think there are 8 CTAs on the homepage if I’m counting correctly. The site gave me a strong sense of who Jacob is an agent and what kind of travel he sells. It really hones in on the kind of client he is trying to reach (introverted adventure/nature-lovers who want slower, more intentional travel experiences). Boutique Japan also has a phenomenal website. It gives you a sense that they are truly experts in their niche and each of the bios outlines their connections to the country. Both these websites showcase testimonials, a blog, sample itineraries, bios, and more.
I hope this helps! Remember to be patient with yourself as you’re building your site! This doesn’t have to be something that you churn out in one or two weeks. It can be a growing, evolving aspect of your travel agency.
Mary Stein joined Host Agency Reviews in 2016 as its editor. She’s passionate about supporting aspiring travel agents to turn their dreams into their livelihood.
A writer by trade, she can be found working on her novel and teaching creative writing workshops when she’s not tooling around on Host Agency Reviews writing articles and newsletters.
She has received awards for her writing from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation and the Loft Literary Center. She lives in Minneapolis, and loves hiking, camping, and traveling (of course!).