In this era of online travel booking – I’m often asked whether we ‘traditional’ travel agents feel threatened by online competitors.
My answer? Absolutely not – in fact, we love them. Why? Because so long as we’re doing our job well, they strengthen our professional standing and show our clients the benefits and value-adds that only a trained travel advisor can provide.
As long as we go the extra mile for our clients to ensure their travel planning experience is smooth and stress-free from booking to baggage claim on the way home, then we’re proving our value over and over again.
In addition, the more personalised the attention we provide, the more we’ll not only retain existing clients, but we will lure new clientele away from the online alternatives.
Why? It’s simple really. Take this past festive season as an example. In a few short weeks, our advisors assisted clients – and non-clients – with 24 issues arising from hotel bookings made through online robots.
From rooms which hadn’t actually been booked to incorrect room categories and mistaken hotels, to a client having a booking at a hotel that didn’t even exist.
The travel industry has always valued service and relationship building, not just between travel advisors and our clients, but between travel advisors and our suppliers – from hotels, tour providers, airlines, cruise ships and more. These relationships take time – and they certainly don’t happen online.
Relationships bring enormous benefits to our clients, with a random sample of 50 bookings our travel advisors made for clients during the last quarter of 2018 resulting in 70 per cent of hotel room bookings being upgraded.
It’s this kind of value-add which will help travel agents remain relevant and at the forefront of our industry.
From the initial research phase through to planning, booking, the journey itself and the post-travel period, getting to know our clients – on both sides – and offering superlative service are the secrets to stopping clients from shopping around, no matter how many options the online sector presents.
After all, if they get to their destination by the first stop, there’s no need to get back on the bus.
One of our clients recently compared the experience of travel advisors and online booking sites with that of financial planners and online investing, saying:
“Like my financial planning industry experience where the internet has encouraged people to choose to invest directly, the travel industry must also deal with the impact of the internet encouraging consumers to ‘go direct.’ As a financial planning professional, unfortunately, I know that for most people the outcomes achieved from engaging in DIY financial planning are amateurish, often quite dangerous and rarely achieve better results. I now realise, that before working with the Goldman Group, I had fallen into the same trap…with my own incompetent DIY travel arrangements.”
My thoughts exactly!