Staying Competitive in the Travel Industry
Staying Competitive in the Travel Industry
Staff writer – March 14, 2018 – Updated April 11
Being a travel agent can be rewarding—if you love travel, what could be more fun than sending other people on their dream trips? It can be difficult to make a good living as a travel agent, but it is certainly possible! It means excelling at your job, staying ahead of the competition, being friendly and resourceful, and continuing to educate yourself.
Care—but Be Sincere
Travel is a service industry. If you don’t like people, it will show. You are probably in this industry because you want to help people have the best travel experience possible. Make sure they see that!
The most important thing you can do is listen to clients when they are talking to you. Everyone appreciates a good listener, and listening will help you serve them better. And make sure you respond promptly to phone calls and emails. No one should expect you to be chained to your phone, but you will need to make a system for yourself to ensure that your clients feel that they are heard and that their needs are important to you. Build a relationship with your clients and make sure they feel they can trust you.
Ask clients about their needs. Do they have dietary or mobility issues? Is there any other reason, such as gender or sexual orientation, that your client may feel unsafe or unwelcome in certain places, and do you know what to recommend to them?
Your client is excited about their trip. Get excited with them! Offer to go through the itinerary with them again just before they leave, especially if they are not seasoned travelers.
Be Cost Savvy
Keeping your costs down so that you can give your clients competitive prices, while making sure you get paid sufficiently yourself, takes knowledge and practice. It also takes relationships: with hotel and airline reps, cruise lines, tour directors, etc. Learn the “insider secrets” to getting the best rates on travel, accommodations, and events, and pass some of those savings on to your clients.
However, your prices will always depend on the deals that are available, and there will be times when you simply cannot lower the price any further. While you do want to give your customers good prices, it’s better to focus on your expertise than your prices when marketing your business.
Be Marketing Savvy
There are many ways you can market yourself. First, get involved in your community so that people know who you are. Make sure your website is professional, updated regularly, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. Offer an e-newsletter.
Make social media accounts for your agency and maintain them. Do not use your social media posts primarily for sales (too many sales posts and people will unfollow or unlike you), but use them to engage new and existing followers. Most importantly, post beautiful photos of your agency’s trips and destinations! Ask your clients for reviews.
Know what makes you different from other agents/agencies, and have a pitch prepared for when people ask you about your services. Also, take a business writing course. A poorly written email or newsletter may make potential clients question your professionalism and attention to detail.
Stay in the Loop
Keep up with new trends in travel destinations and activities. Add unique activities and up-and-coming destinations to your repertoire. Follow current events and know how they affect travel to the destinations you offer. Know the best times for clients to go to certain destinations, such as festival times, and when it’s better to avoid them. In Muslim-majority countries during Ramadan, for example, businesses may close early so employees can rest, and your clients may find their lunch options limited.
Offer the Best Service
Ultimately, success in your job comes down to service. Today, people can book a simple trip on the internet, and they can find general travel information. It’s the more complex trips they need help with. And you can use your insider knowledge of an area to personalize a trip.
Consider specializing in a few destinations or activities. This can be risky, but you can offset the risk by being prepared to add new destinations if the market changes. Specializations can include Africa, Europe, city breaks, sports and other live events, honeymoons, package trips to island resorts, natural adventure trips, and more. Make sure you can offer these trips in a range of budgets.
Corporate travel group managers have a lot to pay attention to, so it’s often a good idea to enlist the help of an outside agent that can help with some of the preparation and planning. By letting a trusted, knowledgeable expert handle some of the travel, venue, accommodation, and event aspects, that leaves you more time to concentrate on scheduling an efficient, enjoyable, and cost-effective trip for everyone.
Keep track of your clients’ return dates and ask for their feedback so you can improve your service.
As a travel agent, you must be resourceful and creative. Your expertise and a friendly smile will keep your clients coming back, possibly with their friends.