When online reservations were introduced, it was said to be the thing that would kill the travel agency and the travel agent. Now we have been living with self-made reservations for almost 20 years and the travel agent is still there. For sure, lots have changed in the travel industry during those years but are there any opportunities left and what should I do to survive as a travel agent?
I don’t have all the answers and my crystal ball is very foggy about the future. I decided to make a simple S.W.O.T. analysis on life as a travel agent today, to better understand what is going on and the future of travel agencies.
- The travel agency staff knows (or at least should) what they are selling and can help the customer to make the right decisions for that particular trip. Agent is bringing value to the customer.
- Travel agents may have bulk deals with airlines and other suppliers particular for a trip.
- The travel agent can offer services different from what the end customer can book themselves. The challenge for the travel agent is to reach the customer with this information.
- The Internet can be hard to navigate with too many options and unclear offers. As a travel agent you offer “one-stop-shopping”.
- I see that many travel agents have a tough time justifying their own value to the customer. Raise your head and be proud to enhance the customers trip by providing value, products and information. Having said that, you have to make sure to provide those things, otherwise you can close shop now. You have to think of yourself as a consultant, NOT an agent.
- Not adopting to new habits and/or patterns quickly enough. The travel industry has more or less been standing as onlookers on the technical revolution, giving away huge market potential to new players in the field.
- Educate the customer, especially millennials and the younger generation since very few of them know, on what a travel agent does and the benefits.
- Embrace technology and use it to enhance the customer experience and ultimately your own business. Why not start with improving dynamic online packaging to include more services that just air, hotel and rental cars?
- As we established under threats, the internet is full of too many offers. As a travel agent, you know how to interpret the “5USD / night all-inclusive offer”. Can you sell this service to your customers or use it as an argument in your marketing?
- There are fewer agencies out there today than 15 years ago.
- Terrorism and natural disasters. As a travel agent there is no way you can prohibit those from happening and they might affect the general economy and willingness to travel. What you can do is to enhance your service levels when bad things happen, i.e. when the ash cloud hits again you do want to help your customer instead of just referring them to the airlines website. Consider charging for your services and this is a great revenue stream at the same time.
- A downturn in the economy will affect people´s travel habits.
- Not being able to inform the customers what you offer.
- Not attracting new blood to the travel business. In order to drive change you will need entrepreneurs with a vision.
Conclusion on the Travel Agents Situation Today.
The travel agent is still around and there is a future as a travel agent but they will have to adopt new ways of doing business. If you are still making good money as a “traditional travel agent” you are probably doing something right. If your balance sheet makes you worry, you should start thinking about change.
At the same time, all travel agents should go out on the barricades to start communicating their value. If you want to discuss your situation as a travel agent, please do not hesitate to contact me for a confidential conversation on what can be done.
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Are you a travel agent and have more insights and thoughts of the current situation and the future? Or do you need consulting or just a coach? Please get in touch via email, in the comments below, on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. If you want to be anonymous, it is not a problem.