by WEX Travel
In an age of “everything online”, traditional travel agencies have had to continually re-tool their services to remain relevant and provide competitive offerings to today’s consumers. But they’ve managed to secure their place in the market by sticking with what makes them unique: personalized, expert service. Travel professionals come to the table with experience that consumers are hard-pressed to find when they’re exploring travel options online, particularly when self-directed.
Even so, consumers do have plenty of options for booking travel and traditional travel agencies need to market to their sweet spots. In The Agent 'Advantage Gap' Widens, Travel Weekly talks about the importance of agents forming a solid value proposition to attract channel business, having unveiled these powerful statistics:
- Frequency of travel of travel agent’s leisure clients vs. travelers who book through other channels: 1 trips vs. 2.90
- Average length of each leisure trip booked by agents vs. the length of trips booked through other channels: 75 nights vs. 5.59
- Amount clients of agents spend per year on leisure travel vs. other travelers: $10,808 $4,745
Piggybacking off of these insights, we’ve identified with 3 areas of opportunity for traditional travel agencies—ways they can meet travelers’ needs in a way that will be hard to beat by less-personalized alternatives:
- Cruise Season
According to Cruisemarketwatch.com, the worldwide cruise industry has had an annual passenger compound growth rate of 6.55% from 1990 to 2019. There’s growth potential in the United States, as only 53% of the target North American market has ever taken an ocean cruise. Because cruises are a more complex travel purchase, cruise lines depend on travel professionals to promote and sell the cruise and ensure travelers are matched with the right brand, the right line, and the right trip. In addition, as discussed on TravelMarketReport.com, cruisers tend to be “lifelong cruisers”; this means that they’re potentially lifelong customers for the travel agencies who serve them.
Get additional insights in TravelMarketReport.com’s Travel Agents Focus On Surviving In 2016.
- Multigenerational Travel
A hot travel trend involves traveling with family members of various generations, from parents and kids to great-grandparents and cousins. Research shows that those planning multi-generational trips are more likely than the average leisure traveler to use a traditional travel agency. 38% of travelers recently surveyed by Preferred Hotel Group say they used the services of a traditional travel agent to plan a multi-generational vacation during the past year and 41% intend to do so during the next two years. To meet the need, Forbes points out, more travel agencies are tailoring offerings that appeal to extended-family travelers, such as safaris and genealogy tours.
Find more in It’s a Family Affair: Multigenerational Travel.
- Old-Fashioned (but Plugged-In) Personal Service
Circling back to the primary value proposition of a traditional travel agency, personalized, expert service is at the center of what makes them valuable. Keeping this message in front of customers who are inundated with digital advertising and within fingers’ reach of booking their next trip online is an opportunity for agents. It comes down to smart marketing—using digital communications like e-mail and social media—to stay in front of customers and prospects. There’s also room for more traditional communications, like post cards and other physical mailers, particularly when marketing to the baby boomer generation, who are more likely to pay attention to what’s in their home’ mail box.
On-demand services can’t be left out of the mix. Websites that offer quoting, booking and lead-generation capabilities are bound to enhance the experience for customers. And may even lead to increased sales through ancillary products and services (Ancillary Sales Add Up—Do They Benefit Agents? explores this topic further). The experience is all-important, and today, that means having access to information around-the-clock while on-the-go. It’s no wonder why texting with travel agents is one of the next big things in the industry. See Text, Text, Book: Messaging Technology in the Travel Industry for details.