Canadian travel agents can garner a substantial share of international travel bookings if they understand the consumer’s sales cycle and what motivates them along the path to purchase.
According to a new study of international travel from Development Counsellors International (DCI), Canadian travelers spent CAN $3,985 on their last international leisure trip, while those earning CAN $200K or more annually, spent CAN $5,481.
When asked who they booked with, 25 percent of the 1,505 Canadian residents responding to the survey said a traditional travel agent, although agents often do not appear prominently on the Canadian traveler’s path to purchase.
“When you are talking about these bucket list trips that families have been saving up for, for a long time, they want to protect their investment. They rely on having that relationship with someone they trust, like a travel agent,” said Robyn Domber, DCI vice president of research.
About 22 percent of the respondents said they are agnostic about what time of year they would take an international vacation, with the remainder of the respondents choosing either the first six months of the calendar year, or the latter half of the year, Domber said.
According to Domber, more than a third of those international travelers book 6-12 months out, a large window for agents to register on the traveler’s radar screen.
Nearly half (48 percent) of those international trips were family vacations, so having marketing that reflects this large segment of interest is crucial to agents grabbing the attention of Canadian international travelers.
Beach getaways were the second most popular type of vacation, at 26 percent, while romantic getaways came in third at 19 percent. Knowing your client’s major anniversaries, birthdates, retirement dates, and other life celebrations will get you in the path to purchase for 15 percent of the international vacations booked by Canadians, the DCI report shows.
Internet searches are important
As is found elsewhere in the world, most Canadians (42 percent) are conducting internet searches when first feeling inspired to plan their vacation, Domber said. Recommendations from families and friends are a close second at 41.3 percent, and then come online traveler reviews (24 percent). Lodging websites and online travel agents inspire Canadian international travelers 23 percent and 17 percent respectively.
Despite the fact that such a large share of research is being conducted online, according to DCI, only 29 percent of international vacations are being purchased through online travel agencies, just slightly ahead of the one in four booked through traditional agents, said Domber.
Once a Canadian traveler has decided on a destination, they begin to rely more on supplier websites. With accommodations making up the single largest share of the vacation expense (CAN $1,371), it’s no surprise that hotel websites rise in importance, Domber said, to second place at 38 percent.
“Travelers know where they are going, and now they are choosing between a few hotels and resorts. That’s still an opening for travel agents if you know a client is getting ready to book and you have either special deals you can offer, or added value,” she said. Friends and family are the second most important source of information at that point.
“The opportunity to own that booking may have diminished, but it still exists,” said Domber, noting that online travel agents are still inspiring only 21 percent of international travelers once a destination has been chosen.
To get into the path of purchase, Domber recommends that agents obtain as many testimonials as they can, leveraging them at their website and on their social media platforms.
“Whether it is a third party, family or friend, having comments about the trip you put together, about the destinations and types of vacations international travelers are booking, is so important,” Domber said. “There is no replacing that.”
Canadians engage in a variety of activities on vacations, but beach vacations continue to rise to the top as the leading activity at 61 percent. When considering future vacations, respondents said they are next most interested in visiting historic sites (54 percent), with outdoor recreational activities (40 percent), shopping (39 percent), and museums (36 percent) rounding out the top five.
Canadian agents can network and learn how to increase their travel bookings at two Travel Market Report events this year, Travel MarketPlace WEST in Vancouver, March 1-2; and Travel MarketPlace EAST in Toronto, May 22-23. This will be the fifth consecutive year that TMR has hosted a conference in Toronto, with approximately 450 attendees in 2017.