Want to know the number 1 reason why travelers don’t use a travel agent? Quite simply, they never thought to do it. This news should not come as a surprise to most of us in the industry. But it is very important to understand WHY travelers don’t use travel agents and quite exciting that the number 1 reason why they don’t is simply a lack of awareness. That means there is great opportunity.
This statistic comes from a survey conducted by ASTA (carried out by MMGY Global) in early 2014 on the value of using a travel agent. They surveyed a selection of the US population whose income was $50,000 per year or more. The results of the survey are VERY important to anyone building a business by selling travel. To gain access to the survey results, just join ASTA, www.asta.org.
So now that we know why a large portion of travelers don’t use a travel agent, what do we do? It’s simple….get visible. Let’s take a step back first and look at a birds eye view of the travel agent business. Twenty years ago, the travel agent served as 1 of 2 distribution channels for travel. For example, if a traveler wanted to purchase and book a flight they had 2 choices: 1) Call a travel agent; or 2) Call the airline directly. In addition to being a critical distribution channel of travel products, the travel agent also housed information that the traveler didn’t have access to.
We all know that online technology has changed this radically. While the travel agent is still a distribution channel, the traveler has direct access to the same inventory and information giving him/her the option to bypass the agent. What that meant for the travel agent is that his/her business model changed just as radically. The reason why it might feel so hard to make money selling travel is because a large portion of travel agents are still marketing and selling the way they did 20 years ago. Their business models have changed, but their marketing and selling activities haven’t responded in kind.
The business model changed from agent to expert. But most travel agents are still marketing like an agent….not like an expert. Here are 3 marketing techniques that will help establish you as an expert. If we can get the majority of the travel agent population to do these, we will make a big dent in raising awareness about the value of a travel agent and hopefully, reduce the percentage of our population that doesn’t book their travel with a travel agent. And maybe, just maybe, our President will notice too 🙂
1. Create your core compelling message that is clear on the benefits and solutions of your service. Then, get clear on who your service is for. Most travel agents skip this step and try to be all things to all people. That doesn’t work because when you speak to everyone, you speak to no one. You must get clear about the benefits and solutions of your service – which I believe should be based upon your own brilliance and gifts – and then point your message at the audience who wants and needs it. For example, our clients Rhian Torontow and Carol Baldwin of Magical Family Adventures have gotten super clear that they are excellent at deepening the family bond through designing memorable family travel experiences. Their audience is families who want or need to deepen the family bond. In addition, they can point this message at organizations who want to deepen the bond among their members, creating a wonderful group travel opportunity for them. Remember, agents sell everything. Experts sell what they know best and point it at who wants it.
2. Market information, not products. The best way to establish your expertise is to show people your expertise. Show them by demonstrating your knowledge. Do that through blog articles, ezine articles, public speeches, videos, audios, etc. And do it all for free. “When you give them the best, they will pay for the rest.” Your ideal clients will receive your awesome information and think, “wow, if she knows that much, I wonder what else she knows.” Stop hiding behind marketing products. When you do that, you look like a sales rep for the supplier. That’s not an expert. Thats a salesperson. Lead your marketing with good, helpful information.
3. Build “Know, Like and Trust” with a weekly electronic newsletter. As a seller of a service, the most important asset you can have is “know, like and trust” with your clients and prospects. Hands down, the best way to build this is by delivering a weekly, electronic newsletter. But there is a formula to the content of the newsletter – which is laid out for you super clearly in my Make Money Selling Travel Blueprint. You must build a connection with your people by A) being a real person and sharing snapshots of your life demonstrating that; B) being helpful with great information; and C) being consistent in your communication with them. When you have a regular communication channel that hits on all of these pistols, you get an engaged and loyal following.
It’s time to contribute towards awareness of the travel agent of today – the travel expert. Start marketing yourself as an expert. Begin with your core compelling message. Make sure you are speaking to the benefits and solutions people are looking for. Then, build marketing systems where you are sharing free information….regularly. Finally, engage frequently with your clients and prospects in a way that is real, helpful and engaging.