BOCA RATON, Fla. -- To succeed in today’s marketplace, travel professionals should focus their energy on the types of clients they want to serve and the types of vacations they want to sell.
That was the message on Friday from industry executives during the opening session of Travel Market 2014, American Marketing Group’s biannual conference for its member agents, including TRAVELSAVERS agents.
During a leadership panel called “A View From the Top,” moderated by Well-Being Travel executive vice president Anne Marie Moebes, supplier executives encouraged agents to specialize in order to better meet the needs of today’s travelers.
By being smarter – and more discriminating – in how they spend their time, agents can maximize the quality of their service and the revenue they generate, panelists said.
Choose suppliers carefully
“If you want to do something great, don’t try to do everything,” said Milton Hugh, senior vice president of sales for Viking Cruises.
Agents should also be discerning in their choice of suppliers, Hugh suggested. “You’re not making money on every product. You need to find out which partners you’re making money with. Once you do that, you can invest your training time and marketing dollars on those partners.”
Savvy travel professionals are already doing that. “Agents are getting much smarter and deciding which travel partners they want to play with,” said Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales at Celebrity Cruises.
“You guys are becoming experts on one particular group of traveler and making a lot of money,” she added.
Make it unique
Today’s consumers expect more than ever when it comes to the uniqueness of their vacations.
“The consumer wants to feel special and wants more of an experience,” said Margaret Mulholland, president of GOGO Vacations. “There needs to be something driving them to their destination. They need to not just turn up somewhere and head to a hotel.”
Agents who focus on experiences, instead of price, are in the best position to reach today’s consumers, who are inundated with information from a variety of sources.
From the tour operator perspective, creating seamless experiences is crucial for bringing in new customers.
It’s about connecting
“Thirty percent of Globus customers are taking their first tour, and they are doing it because the logistics are hassle-free,” said Scott Nisbet, president and CEO of the Globus family of brands. “They want to see the must-see sights, but they also want to see unique things and connect with the local culture.”
The value today’s travelers place on distinctive experiences gives agents an opportunity to upsell. “I would tell my consumer that this vacation is the most precious thing they do every year,” said Ritzenthaler. “Why would I want to sell them the cheapest thing, as opposed to the thing they will remember forever?”
Focus your efforts
Catering to niche markets is the future of travel selling, according to Mulholland. By targeting travelers who want the products you specialize in, agents can drive sales.
“You’ve got to market to a niche,” said Mulholland. “It doesn’t mean you have to sell high-end to make a lot of money. But you have to be very specific about who you market to and what you sell. After that, it’s up to you.”
Nisbet encouraged agents to participate in training programs so they can anticipate the questions of their clients.
“Take that specialist program,” said Nisbet. “People are going online and getting confused; you need to be ready to answer their questions when they come to you.”