How are travel agents not only going to survive, but thrive in an increasingly challenging retail environment?
Guest speakers at this year’s annual Travelport conference in Seoul have enlightened some 300 delegates about how to effectively compete during challenging economic times.
First off the bat, Australian retail marketing guru Amanda Stevens asked delegates to question who their new travel consumers are and how agents were converting them into advocates for their brand.
Stevens proffered her insights having spent the past year researching common characteristics of what successful retailers in Australia, Asia and America have done over turbulent economic times of late.
Packaging up a number of common characteristics, Stevens said in Australia alone over 3000 local retailers have been forced to close their doors. However, at the same time, many have survived, and not only scraped through, but also thrived in the changing environment.
According to Stevens, retail travel agents should also look to consumer trends to see what is driving the way in which people consume and experience retail spend, which could lead to the creation of new opportunities for travel agents to embrace.
Four pillars as outlined by Stevens include:
1. The notion of BUSY- ness.
Our greatest currency is time – and we seem to have less and less of it. Time to do those things which are important, time for relaxing, time for having great holiday experiences and spending quality time with loved ones, (not while on the phone or on social media). The currency of time, therefore, is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity.
Time as a currency is a far more valuable than saving costs, in the view of the time poor traveller. Most business practices don’t focus on this factor coined by researcher Tim Kasser as “time affluence”. Studies by Tim Kasser reveal that people respond much more positively to the notion that their time is considered of value and will remain consistently loyal if they feel their time has been saved and valued.
Travel agents should ask, “How are you saving time for your customers and what small things are you doing to contribute to their time being saved when they are planning their trips, be it for business or leisure?”
2. Health is the new Wealth (particularly for women).
Health, fitness and wellness travel has gone from emerging trend to badge of honour in the past few years. With a plethora of packages bundling health and wellness into travel experiences catering for this growing market, the segment has truly come of age and fits nicely with the time poor audience mentioned earlier.
Agents should ask, “ How well placed is your business to capture this growing market?”
3. The growing consumer segment known as “WOMAN”
In Australia, women are earning more, staying in the workforce longer and having children later. However, it is two emerging consumer segments that should concern travel agents the most.
Women aged between 25-40 and women in the 50+ age categories have cemented their position as increasingly powerful purchasing decision makers.
According to Stevens, they are also 5 times more likely to refer a brand or experience to their “inner circle “ of at least 2-3 other women.
Agents should ask, “How well is your brand or business engaging with these two sets of potential customers? And how well placed are you to capture these opportunities strategically?”
4. From word of mouth to word of mouse
Social media is unquestionably amplifying marketing opportunities for brands, but as travel businesses go, agents are still and always will be in the experience economy.
The question to ask is, “How well do you currently leverage technology to enhance your customers experience so they become your raving fans?”
Focusing business strategies across these four insights, according to Stevens, should prove the future does indeed look bright for travel agents who are well established to maximise these opportunities.
Nancy Hromin is attending the Travelport Conference in Seoul on behalf of Travel Weekly and can be contacted at email@example.com