Travel agents are missing out on a huge share of hotel bookings, according to Matthew Shephard-Lupo, a sales and marketing associate at Ovation Corporate Travel.
It doesn’t have to be that way. “By asking the right questions, presenting recommendations and offering savings and value-adds, agents can increase both profits and customer satisfaction,” Shephard-Lupo said.
Travel Market Report asked Ovation Corporate Travel to share its advice for frontline agents on what to say to clients so they’ll book their hotel stays through the travel agency, instead of self-booking online.
Following is a step-by-step approach, based on input from Ovation’s own frontline travel consultants.
Ask the right questions.
• “I see you are traveling overnight, may I suggest a hotel?”
• “Do you have an ideal location in mind?”
• “Do you have a price point in mind?”
• “Do you prefer a more traditional hotel or something more modern?”
Present your recommendations.
• Listen to the traveler; provide the best option per location, price point and style.
• Give at least two options.
• Don’t give too many options, as this can be overwhelming.
List value-add benefits. Travelers are usually not aware of value-added options until told about them by a travel expert. Detail all hotel upgrades, amenities and enhanced offerings upfront so travelers know about these additional benefits and savings.
Outline pricing options. Travelers tend to feel more comfortable booking a hotel when they are provided with different levels of pricing/rates. They want to see clearly the savings they’ll get by choosing one property over another.
Personalize it. Include anecdotes with personal stories about the property you are recommending. When a trusted expert who has stayed at a hotel recommends it highly, it eases the decision-making process. Use phrases like, “Based on my own experience at the XYZ hotel, I suggest trying the …”
Paint a picture. Be as detailed as possible when explaining a hotel’s services, rooms, amenities and ambience. Descriptive words paint a visual picture of what the traveler can expect.
Showcase preferred partnerships. Emphasize your unique relationship and strong partnership with the hotel. Point out that this allows you to offer exclusive rates, discounts and amenities that the client will not find online.
Move clients away from online bookings. Explain to clients that booking online is limiting. Typically online bookings do not allow travelers to receive the additional upgrades, amenities and value-add services that are available through a travel consultant. (For more on what to say, see sidebar.)
Sell them on your suggestion.
• “I have had clients rave about the service.”
• “It’s a perfect location near your office, and I have a terrific relationship with the property.”
• “Our rate is X, which is a special rate we’ve negotiated. The general public pays X amount more for the same room.”
• “I’ll call Susan, my contact there, to request and secure an upgrade and an amenity.”
Sales Advice: When Booking Hotels, Show Your Value, June 6, 2013