Technology has spread its wings into the travel industry and has been well received by the suppliers such as airlines and hotels. Customers are resorting to online solutions for most things and the fast proliferation of internet supported smartphones is ensuring the sustenance of online booking platforms or the OTAs. These OTAs powered by travel booking software are putting up a heavy competition to the traditional travel agents and are discounting their role in a way.
So, the question arises – Is there a way the traditional travel agent can survive this onslaught of online platforms?
There is a hope yet and here are a few measures that will help sustain the business of the travel agents:
Specialize: The fact that you may want to do everything and anything will contribute to the loss of focus and split your resources. Nowadays, the average traveler has enough and more of general information on travel across the internet. Not all of it may be authentic or relevant for the present day, plus there is no specific information. Pick up a few destinations and specialize in them, not just on the routes and modes of transport but on other requirements such as – hotels, stays, food, culture, adventure spots etc. Focussing on a few specific destinations will build your expertise and will build your confidence. You will have the advantage of gaining more customers and have a scope to build stronger relationships with your suppliers.
Quality Service: Nothing beats a quality service and personalization. Go beyond the rules and help your customers plan and travel to their favoured destinations. At times, do not hesitate to provide guidance or even recommend things with the ultimate aim of providing the best to the customers. Not all travelers will know the best way or the best stay; your specialization will come in handy here. Also, if there is a service you do not provide feel free to help your customer find that service elsewhere, you would have created a relationship. Ensure you give the customers what they want; they should leave with a feeling of trust, which will bring them back to you.
Online Presence: Adapt to the technological things such as the latest tour management software or go with applications such as travel agency software that will put you at an advantage. These applications can help in terms of finding better deals from suppliers and provide live feed to help you design trip plans. The market also provides software for travel agents that helps in resource management and saves both time and costs for you. Adopt certain technological aspects to stay competitive and at the same time promote yourself on social and professional media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Offline Efforts: While online presence is important, some travel agents miss the bus when it comes to offline efforts. Focussing heavily only on the online aspect will limit your efforts since there several entities including online booking platforms doing the same. A smarter way is to actively connect offline with your customers and prospects. Calling your customers as soon as you receive a query over a mail or message brings about personalization while enhancing your service levels.
Network and Collaborate: Networking is perhaps the most essential thing for success in the business world. You may not be able to do everything on your own, if there is destination route you do not service but have a lot of enquiries on the same, connect with another agent who does that. Collaborate with relevant stakeholders to enhance service levels and share the profits. Earning something is way better than earning nothing. In doing so, you are also more likely to build a stronger network that can aid you in your business and growth. It also helps get referrals from other agents.
Delight Customer: Always look to delight your customers and there are enough and more ways to do so. As part of the tour package, add a breakfast or a snack as a compliment from your side, with your established connect it shouldn’t be difficult to do so. For a group traveling on a rural tour, arrange dinner with bonfires to an extent that it does eat too much into your profits. It’s always good to give a bit extra and put a smile on the face of your customers; they will remember you for long and will want to stick with you for their future requirements.
The technology boom can be utilized to your advantage if you think through and adapt to the changing conditions. While there needs to be an increase of intensity and focus on the online do not miss out on the offline opportunities as they will provide the edge.