Over the past few weeks I’ve heard some amazing stories of professionalism above and beyond the call of duty—and of delivering value far above any fee.
I’ve chatted with Norm Payne, who always arrives at the airport three or four hours in advance so he can schmooze with the gate agents and the baggage handlers and the customer-service reps he may one day need to call upon to help a customer in distress.
I’ve heard Kitt Garrett’s story about turning a customer’s request for four sets of theater tickets into an experience of a lifetime. She took a few minutes to ask what the purpose of the trip was, and discovered it was to help a granddaughter prepare for an audition in musical theater. So, along with the tickets, Garrett delivered a private backstage experience and a session with a professional singing coach.
I’ve even heard it from suppliers.
“You can’t return a vacation,” says Tauck president Jennifer Tombaugh. “We’re selling packages with 1,000 different components, and this is the most important time you have. Just as you need a professional financial advisor, you need a professional to help plan your vacation.”
“Everybody wants to go direct, but the trade will always need travel agents,” says Travel Impressions president Jeff Clark. “The travel agent knows the destinations and can put consumers in the right place and the right brand.”
And, slowly but surely, the traveling public seems to be coming back around. MMGY Global research found that in the $250,000+ salary range, 30% of travelers plan to use a traditional travel agent in the next two years. The top three reasons: their “knowledge of destinations and travel service providers, because “they have the experience to help me book a better trip than I could on my own,” and because “they have the ability to provide an extra level of service when things go wrong.” (For more on MMGY’s research, see my interview with Steve Cohen, MMGY’s VP of Insights [love that title!])
So heads up, travel professionals. Stand proud.
You have an important story to tell. But it’s up to you to get the message out. Take advantage of your associations and your consortia to help spread the word; talk to your local press and the trade press; share your tales and your insights and your value proposition.
The world awaits your customers. And the world’s travelers really do need your help to get where they want to go.