5 reasons travel advisors are indestructible (plus the tips you need to succeed)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Recessions. Ash clouds. Pandemics. Is there anything that will stop travel advisors? Of all the industries in the world, there are few which have been shaken as continuously as the travel industry. While all sectors have had their hardships, it seems that whenever a new catastrophe arises, travel advisors are among the worst hit – but they’re also the most tenacious. For years advisors have been told that their days are numbered; that the rise of the internet (and its plethora of ‘book it yourself’ websites) would be the death of brick-and-mortar stores. But as it plays out, those threats have never come to be, and today travel agencies account for around $17.3 billion worth of bookings worldwide.

There are reasons for the travel advisors’ survival: first of all, the industry has diversified somewhat. While brick-and-mortar stores do still exist, a new breed of advisors began to appear in the 2000s, straddling the line between physical stores and the online experience. Not to be confused with OTAs, these advisors have succeeded in carving out a place for themselves in the digital space, and in many instances, your friendly neighborhood travel advisor will work online whilst maintaining their presence instore, since many travel agencies these days have their own websites and chat options.

 

OTA (online travel agencies)

Online travel advisors

  • Typically online only
  • May still have a physical premises; oftentimes offering service both in-store and online
  • Requires the customer to complete their own research; user must be sure of the destination they want to visit and the dates they can travel
  • Customer service readily available; will build your itinerary for you based on criteria such as budget and expectation (i.e ‘somewhere hot’, ‘honeymoon location’ etc)
  • Reduced flexibility; somewhat rigid search terms (eg ‘+3 days, -3 days’)
  • Greater flexibility – travel advisors tend to have a wider view of what’s available, when and for how much
  • Relies on customer’s own research
  • Advisor expertise is paramount

 

Another reason for the industry’s survival is due to the capability of an advisor versus the ‘Everyman’: from in-depth knowledge of a certain destination to the very valuable relationships they hold with hoteliers, tour operators and airlines alike, advisors are undoubtedly better equipped to create travel experiences which are unforgettable for all of the right reasons. Read on to discover the top 5 reasons that advisors are indestructible, as well as our top tips to keep succeeding in this tough (but totally worthwhile) industry.

Reason 1 – Knowledge is power, contacts are key

The main reason a customer would seek the services of a travel advisor is simple: they understand that the advisor will know more than they could ever learn on their own. Perhaps their chosen advisor sells experiences within a specific niche (say, skiing or honeymoon holidays); maybe they can give recommendations for the top restaurants in Thailand, or the must-do activity in Australia. Specialist knowledge is hard to beat, and certainly far easier to obtain in a conversation with an expert versus reading through the many countless blogs on the internet (though if an advisor has their own blog to back up their knowledge, it could serve as a fantastic point of reference!). But points such as these represent just one side of advisor-only knowledge.

Travel advisors will, undoubtedly, have access to contacts and products that the customer could never tap into themselves. From bedbanks packed full of the best hotels to an advisor-only hotline for airlines, advisors are perfectly positioned to put together the package holiday of dreams, at speed and at the best possible value. Additionally, it’s likely that advisors will be among the first informed of industry changes, be that visa-related updates to issues affecting the industry as a whole. By working on the front lines, you’re always going to be your client’s greatest asset.

Top tip: don’t be afraid to diversify. While niches are fantastic, it pays to be aware of all facets of the industry in the event that the tide changes. Whether your particular specialism falls out of favour or global events make your original offerings untenable, being prepared will help you to bounce back.

Reason 2 – Where else will you find a one-stop shop?

Let us rephrase that: who else could clients trust to handle hotels, flights, transfers, activities and insurance? Nobody but a travel advisor, of course!

Despite do-it-yourself websites offering ancillaries alongside flights and hotels, few are truly interlinked – in fact, the internet is rife with horror stories where customers have put their faith in one business, only to find that parts of their so-called ‘package’ holiday were never booked at all. Another problem customers may have when booking the various parts of their holiday is not knowing who it is they can trust (for example, whether that fun activity they’d had their eye on is actually carried out by a reputable company or not). Travel advisors offer the ultimate sense of security for their clients, with all items having been vetted before being added to their portfolio (and by serving as a contact, should things go wrong in-destination).

Speaking of a one-stop-shop, Bedsonline have made it easy for advisors to cross-sell items via the Booking Engine. Ancillaries ranging from from car hire to private transfers, theme park tickets and activities can all be found in the Booking Engine, with relevant items being suggested based on the present query. The cross-selling tool allows advisors to leverage Bedsonline’s impressive portfolio of ancillary options by adding them to the same quote or booking, with an ability to present all items at one final cost.

Top tip: share your credentials! When clients are choosing who to book, trustworthiness is critical. Consider asking your contacts for a testimonial to display on your website – even a kind piece of feedback from them could go a long way to boosting your credibility. Not only will comments like these put your customers at ease, but it could signify to prospective clients that you offer the whole package.

  • 43% of all travelers prefer to book air travel with an advisor versus going it alone
  • 63% of those who booked with agencies said their experience was better than when booking alone
  • 66% of travelers say that advisors helped them to avoid costly mistakes and inconveniences
  • 55% of millennials prefer to book with advisors – that’s almost twice the number of baby boomers who prefer to do the same!
  • According to the American Society of Travel Advisors, the number of consumers booking with advisors is now at its highest point in the past three years
  • The most common reason why travelers choose to book with an advisor is to save time

Reason 3 – Advocates in the face of adversity

At the beginning of this post, we touched on a few incidents which have affected the world of travel in recent years. Each of the scenarios mentioned will conjure up powerful, visceral memories for those who are old enough to remember (raise your hand if you recall the chaos of 2010’s ash cloud!), but depending on how the situation was managed, those affected at the time may be grateful or resentful of how they chose to book their holidays to begin with.

In the event of a travel disaster, the clients who have booked with a travel agency will almost certainly experience lower levels of stress as the management of a situation is taken out of their hands. Conversely, those who booked alone may find themselves scrabbling for help from customer services who are too busy to answer questions over email, phone or online. It’s at this point that we refer back to reason one – contacts truly are key, and as unlikely as it may seem for critical scenarios to take place, we all know that they do happen. Let your clients know at the point of enquiry that they’ll be in safe hands if they book with you – referring to past disasters and how you handled them could be a great way to illustrate your capabilities!

Top tip: keep policies close to hand in the event of an emergency. Be the advocate your clients need when things go wrong, and help yourself to help them by staying on top of important information. It’s a good idea to review unique airline policies on a regular basis; similarly, you should ensure that all booking policies are clearly displayed on the client’s booking contract and that these documents are well-organised, should you ever need to refer to them.

Reason 4 – Access to the best rates, routes and intelligence

Did you know that travel advisors save their clients an average of $452 per trip versus online bookings? As long as advisors have access to excellent rates and expertise, there will always be a home for them in the market. One major benefit advisors have over self-service options (such as Skyscanner) is the capability to put together itineraries for groups or businesses; any consumer looking to book for themselves will struggle to put together a trip for more than 9 people at a time, while many advisors have access to special rates for large parties. Identifying USPs such as these – and leading with them in your marketing campaigns – are an excellent way to sell your services to prospective clients…and will serve as a reminder that, even when times get tough, there’s always something you can offer that clients could never achieve when booking on their own.

Of course, every advisor should aim to equip themselves with a strong artillery, and the best way to do this is to surround yourself with a who’s-who of contacts and to gain access to some fantastic tools (more on that in a moment!). Having a great relationship with hoteliers and tour operators is one way to negotiate great rates on their product, as well as to gain a good idea of what’s popular/peak booking windows, but wouldn’t it be easier if you could access all the information you need in one place?

Top tip: register for Bedonline's booking engine. The easiest way for you to access a wide portfolio at the best rates is by registering with a booking partner, and by working with Bedsonline you will gain access to our free booking and marketing tool. With more that 180,000 hotels available in 5000 destinations (and countless ancillaries to boot!), our booking engine provides advisors with a wealth of fantastic booking options at pre-negotiated rates. What’s more, The Compass - another of our award-winning tools - offers live data intelligence which reveal the Opportunities you should be booking and when, based on your market. Read more by clicking here.

Reason 5 – Man versus machine

While The Compass does use artificial intelligence to seamlessly promote the best booking Opportunities to advisors, you can rest assured that all information has been vetted and approved by a team of experts behind the scenes – as it should be. It’s for this reason that clients should trust advisors above do-it-yourself websites, too: as an advisor, you will be able to identify errors that could otherwise be missed by a computer; this includes misspelt names, incorrect dates and destination information (there’s nothing worse than mixing up Perth, Australia with Perth, Scotland…oh yes, it does happen!).

As fantastic as digital tools can be, they should only ever be part of the overall booking experience. They should aid the advisor, rather than serve as a crutch; they are there to help, not to be relied on 100%. When an advisor is equipped with the best booking tools, the client’s experience will be streamlined and carefully reviewed by the expert – and surely that’s better than either party going it alone.

Our final top tip: have the best of both worlds with The Compass. From accessing global data at a glance to providing speedy, trustworthy service to your clients, The Compass is the number one tool all travel advisors can benefit from.

Start booking amazing experiences by logging into your Bedsonline account now!

 

 
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