Whether its destinations or demographics, safaris or family travel, it’s clear that travel advisors embrace specialization because it allows them to stand out with customers. According to Travel Market Report’s newly released “2019 Outlook on Niche Travel and Specializations,” 94% of advisors specialize and 73% of all sales come from the areas they specialize in.
It’s no wonder that suppliers are scrambling to develop affinity programs and marketing tools for various niche enthusiasts, including wine clubs, solo travel, weddings, eco-tourism, girlfriend getaways, and more.
The report also revealed that travel advisors who follow their own passions attract like-minded customers. As one advisor states, “You can be great at what you love and know. Your passion is what draws clients to you.”
And, it’s profitable. Nearly seven in 10 advisors (69%) said niche and specialty sales are more pro?table than their general travel sales.
Are you ready to make the shift to a new area of specializing? Here are five tips to help you succeed.
1. Commit to your specialty.
Passion is important, but it only goes so far. The next step is to commit to serving only those customers who want what you’re keen on selling. Specialization is the important shift from being “all things to all people,” to being irreplaceable to your ideal clients.
Advisors will often say, “I want to focus on luxury,” but then they are unwilling to let go of leads that will only ever pay for a mass-market vacation. Saying no can be the most important thing you’ll ever do, because it makes room for a bigger yes.
2. Learn how to identify your ideal customers.
Have a list of two or three discovery questions to help identify if prospects are the right fit for you and vice versa. For example, “Describe what’s most important to you about traveling?” or “What is the purpose of your trip?” or “What do you look for in a travel advisor?” If the answers to these questions spell your name, it will make the relationship much stronger from the outset.
3. Value your time and introduce a service fee.
Clients aren’t paying you for the few hours it takes to book the trip. They’re paying you for the months and years you’ve put in to master your craft. You are worth it!
A service fee also quickly separates the serious inquiries from the shoppers. As one advisor said, “The minute I started implementing a $200 planning fee, everything changed. Clients who are serious about my specialty tours to Italy don’t hesitate. The rest just move on. It saves me so much time and I can really focus on the ones who value my expertise.”
4. Choose your partners wisely, but have more than one.
Several respondents to the survey stressed the importance of supplier reps: “Good BDMs are like gold, and can add their personal insights and experiences.”
Also, assess the commitment a supplier has to your area of specialization. It’s easy for a brand to throw in a specialization, such as multigenerational travel, into their advertising, only to find out there’s absolutely nothing for the teens or tweens to do.
Choose two or three suppliers for your niche, rather than a single brand. In many areas of specialization, inventory can be limited. You don’t want to get yourself in a corner where you’ve hyped Provence during lilac season or a particular African Safari, only to find you need to book it two years in advance.
5. Invest in education and professional development.
It’s no surprise that success in specialization comes from dedicating yourself to ongoing learning. Here are just a few best practices for sharpening your saw:
- Seek out at least one professional development course a year, such as Travel MarketPlace or supplier training programs.
- Become certified, because research shows that savvy consumers look for credentials.
- Limit fam trips to your area of specialization.
- Travel the way you sell. If you’ve shifted to luxury travel, splurge where you can to experience the difference for yourself.
- Leverage tourist boards for their enriching information and social media content.
- Attend out-of-town trade shows with the purpose of connecting with lesser-known suppliers who have valuable resources for your niche.
For more information, download Travel Market Report’s “2019 Outlook on Niche Travel and Specializations.”