A new spot of research in the US has pulled the lid off the question many in our industry have pondered for years: why doesn’t everyone use travel agents?
The study, conducted by Signature Travel Network and The Center for Generational Kinetics, asked 1000 American travellers ages 21-65, what barriers stood in the way of them turning to travel agents for advice.
Well, as it turns out, perceived cost is the biggest barrier to using an agent across the generations, from Baby Boomer to Millennial.
There is a real concern among travellers, particularly Gen X travellers (born 1964-1976), that they will end up paying more for travel through a travel consultant than if they simply plan the trip themselves.
In fact, the study found that paying more for leisure travel is the top concern of travellers when it comes to using travel agents. Fifty-one percent of travellers overall and 61 per cent of Gen X travellers say this.
But cost isn’t the only barrier.
The perception of “one-size-fits-all travel” is another barrier to travel consumers choosing to use travel agents.
In fact, the study found that nearly one-third of travellers list ‘the inability to customise their trips the way they want’ as a top concern with using travel consultants. Travellers of all ages want to plan a trip that fits them uniquely.
The research also showed that 28 per cent of travellers are concerned that using a travel consultant means they will be sold a travel package that isn’t unique or tailored to them.
So what else is stopping people from using agents?
A further 26 per cent of Millennial travellers list having an overly “touristy” trip as one of their biggest concerns about using a travel agent.
On top of that, Millennials are more than twice as likely as Boomers and Gen X to list being unable to experience the local culture as a top concern about using a travel consultant.
Luckily, the research also found a few incentives that would convince travellers to use a travel agent.
How to lure these travellers in
The study found that 52 per cent of travellers say that special pricing on trips will absolutely convince them to contact a travel consultant to get more information, and 44 per cent reckon information about how much money can be saved by using an agent will convince them to do the same.
But it isn’t just dollars off the cost of a trip that will inspire potential customers to contact a travel advisor.
They are also very interested in amenities. In fact, 37 per cent of travellers say that special amenities such as free breakfast or other upgrades will convince them to contact a travel consultant.
The national study also found that 85 per cent of travellers would be more likely to contact a travel agent if they knew they could get a quote for their trip.
This means that website features, such as showing how much money can be saved by using a travel consultant, detailing possible amenities that travel professionals can obtain, or offering a free trip quote are also very effective ways to inspire potential customers to reach out for more information.
Travel consumers are also ready and willing to pass along recommendations to their friends and family when they’re happy with your service, and the good news is that there are concrete actions that will drive these referrals.
The national study found that 46 per cent of travellers would tell their friends and family who are planning a leisure trip about an agent who can add special amenities to their travel that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.
Travellers are also appreciative when a consultant contacts them when a price changes and they are able to get a better deal. The national study found that 45 per cent of travellers would recommend a travel consultant who did this.