Experts Guide to… creating a travel agent website

Experts Guide to… creating a travel agent website
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Francis Butters of Harvey World Travel asks:

One of my agents, who is normally really bubbly, has mysteriously turned into a blubbering wreck. I've asked her privately what the matter is and she refuses to tell me, but she has admitted that she's a bit of a cry baby at the moment. It's been going on for about three weeks now. I really feel for her, but it is affecting her work and the morale of those around her. As an employer, do I have the right to know what is upsetting her, given that my business is suffering? If so, can I make her tell me?

Rachael's answer:

I can understand why you want to learn the reason your agent is upset – especially if her personal issues are affecting your bottom line. However, I would not recommend you take the approach of "Tell me, because it is my business." Instead, our experience shows us that if you take an approach that is supportive, yet business-driven, you will get the best results – and you may even learn what is bothering her through the course of your conversation.

Which leads to the question, how should you handle what could be a very sensitive conversation? Our PEOPLE model creates a strong foundation and a specific process to ensure you remain focused.

P – Platform. Let her know that you would like to discuss her recent crying episodes and your concerns.

E – Expectation. Explain to her that while you are there to support her, you also have a responsibility to focus on your clients and the other members of the team. Therefore, you expect her to be able to find a solution.

O – Ownership. Encourage your employee to take ownership of this situation through effective questioning. Ask her how she feels about your request. This is the point where you may learn what has been bothering her. Explain the positive outcomes of rectifying the situation. Also explain the negative consequences if things do not improve, ranging from a more disgruntled team to the fact that she may not be able to remain in a sales position. It might sound harsh, but it could become a reality.

P – Plan. Work together to discuss strategies for moving forward and a timeframe for achievement.

L – Look. Once you have agreed on a plan, it will be important to regularly check in with her and schedule follow up meetings.

E – Elevate. If she has successfully implemented the planned strategies, recognise this and reward her success.

Remember, things may be difficult now, but working with your agent to help her through this trying time may eventually result in a more dedicated, more committed employee who will be an enormous asset to your business in years to come.

Elizabeth Creepin of Schlietz Travel asks:

I run a small independent agency and have been meaning to create a website for the business, but to be quite honest, I have no idea where to start. What sort of information should it contain? Does it need to be packed with new deals and information all the time? Can I do it myself or do I need to pay someone to do it?

Georgia's answer:

Making a website can be daunting but it is certainly worth doing, particularly as Australia's internet penetration is second only to the US.

It is possible to build a website yourself but it is a good idea to get someone who has experience to do it for you. Do some research and ask around to see if you can find someone with these skills to help you.

There is no need to use a big web design company though. A small independent developer should be able to help if you are clear on what you want and can provide a good brief.

To develop your brief you first need to decide what you want. A great way to crystallise this vision is to look online at other websites run by similar businesses. Write down what you think works and what does not, what content they have and any interesting approaches. Use this information to write a brief and also include other background such as information on your company, what messages you are trying to communicate and what you are trying to achieve with the website.

It is important to remember that once the site is built, regularly updating the content will be your responsibility, so when you are thinking about what content you will have on your site you need to be very mindful about how much time you will have available to manage it.

It would be great to have a website packed with new deals and information – but only if you have time to consistently update it. A badly maintained site is worse than no site at all, so I would suggest keeping the content simple, with some information about your company, the destinations you specialise in and some key deals uploaded each month.

It is worthwhile also starting a Facebook community and including a feed from your facebook on your homepage. Facebook is an easy and cost effective way to communicate directly to an audience on a platform they can readily use. You can upload travel insider tips, exclusive deals and other content for your community as well.

To build your community, a good first step is to start including both your web address and Facebook address on all your other marketing collateral, email signatures and other communications. You could also invest in some highly targeted cost per click advertising for people in your local area. This would also serve as a good, cost effective way to start driving people to your excellent new website.

Graham Balls of Cheshire Travel asks:

I've recently been seeing a lot of Papua New Guinea in the media and it looks like an amazing up-and-coming destination. But I'm not recommending it to my clients because I worry that the hotels are of a poor standard. Is this still an issue or should I begin to reconsider my position?

Dan's answer:

You're absolutely spot on about PNG being an incredible destination. It is a wonderful part of the world and in many areas it is utterly untouched by the trappings of modernity. But you're wrong to assume that this means the hotels are of a poor standard.

The truth is that there are a handful of good hotels in each of the main areas that tourists visit. For instance, in Rabaul there are a couple of options that offer what I would call three to four-star accommodation in an island setting. They are Gazelle International Hotel ( and the Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort ( The rooms are clean, spacious and nicely laid out. They have air conditioning, mains power and the tap water is drinkable.

Meanwhile, many of the options offered by Trans Nuigini Tours are also excellent. If you have clients interested in PNG then a quick phone call to PNG Tourism (02 9028 3594) will provide you with impartial advice on the best hotels in the areas that they want to visit.

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