The tendency for agents to sell holidays as packages is one of the industry’s biggest economic drivers.
But do we need to shake-up this selling strategy?
Savenio Founder and MD David Brandon thinks so.
Speaking to Travel Weekly, Brandon said in reality, packages aren’t geared towards consumer happiness, especially not in the era of individuality we now live in, thanks to platforms such as Instagram.
Discussing all things agents, packages and strategies, check out our Q&A with one of the industry’s biggest players.
Travel Weekly: We need to step away from packages, why is that?
David Brandon: Packages just don’t offer the best outcome for clients.
It’s the Instagram era and everyone is looking for their own way to explore and express their experience of the world.
For many travellers, the idea of following behind a leader waving a flag is pretty off-putting.
Even those who want to travel in a group, like solo travellers, are choosing small, highly executed and bespoke travel options.
TW: Will this change the way agents sell holidays?
DB: I believe it will.
Because the modern traveller is very informed and is constantly seeking out the next big travel destination or experience and they are doing heaps of research before they even look at booking.
So travel advisors have to be able to offer people some value-add – things like amenities and other stuff they just can’t get online.
The other great thing about being a travel agent is that you have behind the scenes knowledge – knowing where to look and where the real value is and that makes a huge difference to a client.
Stepping away from package offerings is the only way agents will remain not just relevant, but an integral part of the travel planning process for their clients.
TW: Could it impact them negatively?
DB: I don’t think it ever will. Being independent, you are free to be more creative and therefore have more control over delivering what the client needs and wants.
This is something a package will never actually deliver, it’s just unable to deliver the complete experience a client wants.
The reality is travel designing – and that is what we are, designers – involves lots of parts and we can put it together in a way that can make a holiday into a trip of a lifetime.
TW: How important is individualism for agents?
DB: Firstly, I think we need to bust the myth that independent agents don’t offer value for money.
We all know advertised packages are just headlines to get rid of stock that otherwise can’t be moved.
But who really wants to go on holiday to Fiji during cyclone season?
Most of the time I can get a better quality property, complete with inclusions because I have the experience, knowledge and the backup of my premium supplier networks.
I’m passionate about giving people a great deal and I know I can create better value than the cookie cutter packages on the market.
Ultimately the value travel designers can achieve for a client is much greater than the package itself.
TW: Are agents focusing too much on profits over client needs?
DB: It’s not necessarily the agents, it is Big Travel – the travel corporations that ultimately are more responsible to their investors and shareholders than their customers.
TW: What can agents do to curb this tendency of selling packages?
DB: Move to an independent agency like Savenio.
TW: How is the role of an agent changing in 2018?
DB: I think more people will start to recognise the value of independent agents and look for those who can really help create unique experiences.
They will be seeking out travel designers over and above travel agents who are pushing pre-determined product on behalf of their shareholders.
TW: Any predictions for the year ahead?
DB: The cruise sector is growing by leaps and bounds especially in the luxury, high-end market.
Right now there are heaps of ships coming into Australian waters which are driving a huge local engagement in cruising.
This week’s announcement that one of the Cunard ships will be staying here for a whole season is something that was previously unheard of, but they know the market is exploding here.
International cruise brands are looking closely at our market and investing strongly knowing it will lead to more international travel which Australians love to do.