21st century travel agent

What to Expect From the Travel Agent of the Future

Interesting research report from global travel research firm Skift this week that talks about what customers can expect from the travel agent of the future.

ASATA has launched its own study on the 21st Century Travel agent and will be continuing its research expanding the study to capture elements of leisure travel trends so we were very interested to read this report by Skift which talks about the fact that agents should invest time and energy after the travel experience is over to understand their customer fully.

According to Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso: The most valuable thing agents are doing today to boost their business volume is in-depth follow-up phone calls, because that’s when the travel agent (or travel advisor) can learn more about their client’s particular travel preferences. That’s a shift in the traditional value proposition for agents, who have typically positioned themselves foremost as expert sources of travel destination knowledge.

However, because consumers can access such a large amount of up-to-date travel destination information online, Virtuoso is positioning agents as a kind of travel psychoanalyst. The thinking goes, the better the agent knows the customer’s wishes and whims down to the smallest detail, the more likely the customer will return to the agent for future travel advice and services. So Virtuoso is placing more of a priority on educating member agents about the value of building long term relationships, as much as learning about the newest travel trends and products.

If the agent can develop a certain level of what Upchurch calls “attunement” into the client’s travel mindset, that can create a degree of trust where the customer will more likely use the agent to book future business, even if the agent has never been to the intended destination. That’s because good travel agents are aggressively networking with other agents who are experts on destinations they’re unfamiliar with. In effect, the best individual travel agents today are acting as their own individual travel agencies.

Read the full report here and let us know what you think!

Promote your Professionalism: It’s not all about you…

In the world of customer service and marketing, who’s Number One?

I’ll give you a hint… it’s not you.

You’ve got a killer marketing opportunity: A free ad in the community paper, an opportunity to include a free flyer at the local mall, or someone’s loaned you their database for a once-off mailshot.

It’s time to pick the perfect product to market. Of course, you’ve just been to Paris and you really loved it so without blinking you put together the perfect Paris package, print 5 000 flyers and wait for the phones to ring.

Have you stopped to ask yourself: “Am I giving my customers what they want? Or what I like and want?”

Resist the urge to impose your values, beliefs and preferences on your customer and define clearly who they are, and what makes them tick before making any marketing or sales decision.

Clearly profiling your existing and prospective customers is one of the keys to ensuring you truly resonate with your customers prompting to buy from someone who knows them, someone they trust.

The better you hit that bullseye, the more meaningful the message and with that a loyalty that you would not necessarily have cultivated with a shotgun marketing approach.

Here are some handy tips on how to profile them:

Demographics: Age, gender, race, income, education, family status
Geography: Residence, work location, recreation area
Behaviour: Planner, impulse buyer, frequency of holiday, date of travel, where they source information
Attitude: Likes, dislikes, interests, preferences, values, most pressing needs, preferred contact medium

Cluster those individuals who share a common need your travel company can satisfy. What does their attitude tell you about the services you need to provide? What does their behavior tell you about the type of marketing they need?

Then tailor your pitch to meet their needs. Remember it’s not important what you want and what you think they will respond to. Getting them to trust you means they have to be sure you understand what they need (not what you need) and deliver on it!

That’s the secret of being a 21st century travel agent…