Travel sellers looking to build tours sales will get a new resource by year’s end – a travel agent center on the revamped website of the U.S. Tour Operators Association.
The agent center will provide a portal to USTOA tour operator members who offer agent training, including links to members’ webinars.
“This will be a central resource and connection for agents to our tour operators,” USTOA president Terry Dale told Travel Market Report.
Next year, USTOA plans to post a training module for agents “that helps define the different memberships we have and the value offers of USTOA tour operators,” he said. (See sidebar.)
The revamped travel agent center will be an expansion of the rudimentary agent training programs USTOA now offers.
Building business relationships
The new agent resource is designed to support agents in building business relationships with USTOA-member tour operators and increasing land vacation sales by developing strong, diversified portfolios of products to offer clients, said Dale.
A diversity of products is critical in today’s environment, because consumers want options, he noted. “So the more partnerships agents have with tour operators, the more successful they will be,” said Dale.
“Agents should make sure they have strong relationships with several tour operators, as many as they can mange, in order to have an understanding of the products” and be confident in presenting them to clients, Dale said.
Successful Facebook campaign
Dale also encouraged travel sellers to leverage USTOA’s consumer-facing promotions.
He cited a media campaign last month that promoted USTOA and tour vacations to consumers on Facebook.
The four-week Around the World With USTOA promotion included a sweepstakes with $40,000 in travel prizes provided by Pacific Delight Tours, Go Ahead Tours, Collette Vacations and Globus.
Prior to the campaign, USTOA’s Facebook page had just 635 “likes.” It ended the sweepstakes with 6,432 page likes, surpassing its goal of 5,000, said Dale.
Social media is a cost-effective way for USTOA to generate consumer awareness about the organization and its members’ products, Dale said, noting that USTOA doesn’t have the budget for major media campaigns.
USTOA envisions partnering with travel agents who make their clients aware of such promotions, Dale said.
In the future, agents might consider telling clients about vacation giveaways as an added value in their own agency promotions, he suggested.
The recent campaign included prizes of tours to China, South America, and Australia and New Zealand – once in a lifetime trips, noted Dale. “They were really great trips.”
Calling on Capitol Hill
The Facebook promotion marked the USTOA’s 40th anniversary.
It also coincided with the group’s first Congressional Caucus in Washington, DC.
Last month, 50 USTOA members visited Capitol Hill to press the case for visa reform and to increase awareness of the impact of regulatory actions on the travel and tour industry.