Majority of Travelers Consider Online Reviews
Sixty percent of travelers are influenced by online reviews posted by travelers, according to the Annual America Vacation Confidence Index released by Mondial Assistance USA. The survey found that travelers under 35 are most likely to have their travel plans influenced by online reviews (74%), while those over 55 are least likely (44%). Overall, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) said they find other travelers’ reviews to be trustworthy. Among travelers who share their experiences online (24% of respondents), social networking sites such as Facebook are most popular.
Agencies Shift Focus to Social Sites, Rather than Websites
“Back eight or 10 years ago, at every seminar we were told as travel agency owners you need to have a website, so we all went out and built websites. If you looked at those websites they were all kind of the same. They really weren’t very interactive. They were more like billboards for our agencies. There are very few agencies today that invest heavily in their web presence. Part of the reason for that is it hasn’t by itself been the driver for increased profitability. Many people are now shifting a lot of their online work toward social sites and using those sites probably more than their websites.” – Scott Ahlsmith, 23 TouchPoints
Tips for Comparing Travel Insurance
Agents advising clients on travel insurance might want to check out Squaremouth.com, a site for comparing and purchasing travel insurance. Among tips from Sarah Byrne, marketing manager at Squaremouth: don’t assume a policy is inferior because of a low price; beware of time limits on benefits; purchase only the minimum requirements; take note of the fact that most policies offer a money-back guarantee if the client wishes to cancel, usually for up to 15 days after the purchase date.
ASTA’s Role: Help Agents Make a Living
"ASTA’s role is to make sure that professionals who provide the guidance that can turn a vacation into an experience of a lifetime have the ability to make a good living and that there are enough of them in the marketplace to meet the demand that is here and will be coming soon." – Tony Gonchar, CEO, ASTA
Complex Travel Planning Is Difficult Online
“If all you need is a point-to-point airline ticket, or a hotel stay in a city, it’s easy to book it online. That’s not where travel agents provide the most value. Traveling with a group on a Med cruise? Need to figure out the best ship for your group, negotiate some extras, get it all booked properly, and organize some special group excursions ashore? Hard to do that efficiently online.” – Dan Ilves, vice president, sales and marketing, Travelstore, Los Angeles, Signature
An Adjustment, Not a Downturn for Agents
“What we’re seeing is an adjustment due to changes in the environment, not a continuing downturn or a death of the travel agent industry.” – Alan Rosenbaum, franchise owner, CruiseOne, Alpharetta, Ga.
Marketing Survey Shows Growing Interest in Mobile, Social Media
According to a recent McKinsey survey, marketing executives overwhelmingly (81%) agree that an effective online presence is very or extremely important for staying competitive. And more than half of respondents said that over the past two years, the increasing prevalence of digital media and tools has changed their companies’ ability to interact with and serve new customers. A strong majority of the executives said that to connect with consumers today, their companies most often use two digital channels: their company home pages and email. Looking ahead two to four years, there’s a clear shift toward mobile applications and social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
There’s Money to Be Made in Changing Environment
“We know the economy won’t rebound to what it was. We know, as a result, the behavior of the customers is different than what it was. It’s no longer easy to categorize. The need of the individual varies based on the transaction. Some you want to stay away from. Work in areas that bring value and focus on products and services that have value. There is money to be made in this changing environment.” – Lindsay Pearlman, co-president, Ensemble Travel Group