Travel Agents

5 things we learned at this year’s Travel Counsellor Conference

Ali Coulton

Travel Counsellors (TCs) across Australia are returning to their businesses today after a jam-packed weekend filled with inspiration and motivation at the 2018 Travel Counsellors Conference in beautiful Cairns!

See also: “I’m going to empower”: Kaylene Shuttlewood on her plan for the Travel Counsellors 

We had the pleasure of attending the conference and learning a thing or two about how agents can improve their businesses!

Here are the top five things we learned over the weekend.

  1. Cruising to the top.

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At the Friday afternoon cruise panel, we learned that Travel Counsellor’s cruise booking has doubled in the past few years!

1.3 million Aussies chose a cruise based holiday in FY17 and that’s anticipated to grow to a whopping 2 million by 2020.

We also heard from a panel of industry experts that the hottest destinations in cruising right now are Japan, Egypt, Antarctica, the Adriatic coast and, of course, the Baltic region.

  1. Tech will empower, not replace.

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According to Waseem Haq, Travel Counsellor’s digital and innovation director, tech spending has gone from $5.4 million in 2015 ($3740 per TC) to a huge $11 million in 2018 ($6330 per TC) in 2018.

But regional MD Kaylene Shuttlewood stressed that tech investments will not replace their famous personal touch, but empower TCs with the tools they need to get the upper hand in running their business, and enabling a relationship with their customers.

In fact, a new feature on their dashboard system called “Reasons to Call” is designed to encourage TCs to communicate more with their clients and nurture their relationships, setting them aside from the pack as consultants who care.

You can’t get that kind of service from an OTA.

  1. Apps are where it’s at

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Haq also talked about their my TC app, which allows customers to access itineraries and map out their entire journeys. Like having a TC in their pocket.

Studies show that travellers are increasingly choosing mobile booking systems and apps are a crucial part of this process.

Which is why TC customers can use the app to let TCs know what they’re interested in, browse trips and choose to “book now” through the app.

But instead of the app booking the trip for the traveller, the app then sends a prompt to the TC and lets them know what their customer wants so they can then contact them and begin the booking process.

This successfully keeps with the trend of mobile booking without deleting the human element.

  1. Social media is like word of mouth on steroids.

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TCs were given a crash course on how to use social media as the ultimate marketing tool.

Haq encouraged TCs to think about their brand, what their speciality was and how they can push that online to grow their business.

“Think about what your brand and your business stand for, think about your proposition and what you want to be known for,” he said.

“Social media is a relationship based platform. Its based on people telling stories”

Haq used the example of a TC who posted a video on Facebook of himself walking through a snowstorm to give a client a quote.

While this particular TC had been relatively unknown on social media prior to this, the video generated a huge amount of views and drew significant attention to the TC.

Though, that’s not to say you have to walk through a blizzard to get attention! Haq was merely pointing out the power of building your online personality to support your brand.

  1. TCs really do have a future without limits!

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The theme of the conference this year was “A Future Without Limits” and by the end of the conference, we were convinced.

We saw first hand the strong relationships between the travel counsellors and their self-professed “cult-like” attitude towards the company.

We spoke with TCs who told us that they constantly feel supported not only by their head office staff but by each other through their online forum and forging strong relationships at the annual conference.

With the backing of some truly empowering technology and the growth and popularity of the home-based travel agent model, it’s clear to see their limitless potential.

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