You may be forgiven for thinking that the travel agent who plans your trips to exotic destinations is a thing of the past, but the fact is, despite there being a huge prevalence of online booking tools, travel agents beat self-booking tools in a number of instances, not the least of them being customer satisfaction. So what is causing the continued popularity of travel agents over self-booking tools? In a word, everything.
Who books travel agents?
In the late 90s and through the 2000s there was a rush to do all things online. People thought that the internet would be the death knell of the travel agency, and although there was an initial surge to use self-booking tools when they came out (and these tools are still popular), it turns out that this has actually created a kind of information overload. This is why the single largest group to hire travel agents in the travel industry is the millennials.
Yes, the group that has never known a day without personal computers or the internet, the most tech-savvy of any generation, is the one that is turning to travel agents to help plan their vacations. There are several reasons for this – one is that young people may simply not have the time to plan all the details of a trip. Between work, school, friends, and an active social life, young people would rather leave this kind of research to others. Something you should not assume though is that they come to you as a blank slate. Most millennials will come with some knowledge or outline of what they would like to do and they are often well read on their dream destination. What they want from their agent is the personal touch.
How to reach the millennials?
Part of the personal touch aspect is that young people want their travel agency services to be as reachable as the self-booking tools. By going mobile and also by offering online travel agency options, the travel industry has seen a huge increase in young people shopping for their trips through an agent. Being willing to text is also a large aspect and is actually a boon to you as an agent since it means you can work on the details with several clients at the same time and while on the go. You may be waiting for an appointment but still meeting with four clients via text.
This freedom and flexibility is a major key to travel agent success in the internet age. They can do all the booking themselves but they are reaching out to you and they want you just as available for their needs as the self-booking tools.
This is where the internet and the millennials differ in the benefit of the travel agency. Young people know they can Google sights to see and learn about popular local tourist destinations but what they really want is what they can’t find online. This is where you come in; they want a very personal touch on their trip. They don’t want the same old sights found in the same way as everyone else who went there. They want the local flavor and the ethnic and cultural experiences, but more than that they want something unique and especially tailor-made for them. It is this desire for real experience and not just the Googled ones that has brought on the shift of young people turning to travel agencies.
It is also because the internet offers too much information. If a young person wants to go to France they can Google what to see but they will soon be flustered trying to link places together. They want to see the big spots but they want to also experience the smaller and more intimate as well. This is now the purview of the travel agent who helps them see through the fog of plans and destinations to plan a special and unique trip that they will always cherish. You are, after all, the professional so they expect you to make sense of their travel plans when they cannot and they value the personalized service you offer.
You can be online too!
It may seem like a wild concept but you need not lose all your agency customers to online if you are online as well. By helping your customers online you are making use of the very tool that was supposed to kill the travel agency business. The travel industry is huge and there are billions of online users so there will always be that person who wants an agent rather than some self-booking tools and when they start looking, make sure they can find you. With internet booking engines like TTS WeBook you can make sure you will never lose another client again since they will be able to book their trips online, 24/7, and then you can give the magic touch laking from this process: your valuable experience and customer service.
And even if your travel agency services may be solely online with no physical location you can still give customers the personal touch of Online Travel Agencies (OTA) – the work and trips they provide to their customers are just as tailored and unique as the old style method travel agency.
Travel agents success
Of course, the single biggest key to a travel agent’s success is also the best way to do business in general and that is through word of mouth. If you give truly special trips or go the extra mile to help your customers and make it personal they will cherish your service, come back next time, and tell their friends.
It is important particularly with the millennials that you are very social with them through the process. Instead of looking at time spent getting to know them as wasted, think of it as invested -get to know their names and what they are really wanting out of a trip. The more you know them, the better the personal services you can offer them, which means the more they will enjoy their trip and the more likely they will come back – and most importantly, again, tell their friends.
So the key to travel agent success in the competitive travel industry is to offer what self-booking tools and Google cannot: namely your personal experience, advice, and friendship to every customer who comes to you looking for the trip of their dreams.
Find out more about TTS WeBook.