The travel industry has changed so much over the years, and it has become complex. Trip planning now involves much more than just the basics (the air and accommodations that used to make up the bulk of travel agents’ businesses) - and that’s where selling ancillary services comes in.
Suggesting amenities - those little extras that make a client’s trip memorable - can add to their overall experience, while increasing revenues for travel advisors.
In the cruise market, agents can add on airfare, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, transfers to the ship, shore excursions, gratuities, and travel insurance. With airlines, ancillary items might include priority boarding, preferred seating or upgrades, baggage fees, specialty in-flight meals, and lounge access.
The bundling of amenities for clients on vacations or business trips could involve arranging air, hotel, tours, transfers, car rentals, activities, restaurants, events, travel insurance, and maybe even passport services - so the client has the experience that their trusted travel advisor has carefully taken care of every aspect of their trip. It’s also an opportunity to upsell ancillary items.
Here are five reasons that travel advisors should always put their attention on selling ancillary services.
1. Saves your clients money.
When agents book ancillary items in advance, they save their clients money. On one luxury cruise line, for instance, you can save anywhere from 15%-40%, because the cruise line offers a discount for pre-booked items versus the higher prices charged onboard. For example, when purchased at the time of booking, a beverage package saves 15%, and spa services can be reduced by 30%. While you save your clients money, you also make more for yourself through commissions paid on ancillary items.
2. Simplifies travel planning for your clients.
People are busy. Most don’t have the time to research and understand all the complexities of the travel buying process. Sometimes ancillary costs are not clear and apparent to your clients, but they are to you, the travel expert. By managing these added expenses, travel agents can simplify trip planning for their clients, and help them make smart booking choices. It’s another way to solidify your relationship, and they will be appreciative by returning to you for their next trip.
3. Tailors the experience for clients.
Travelers want to feel special as they explore new places or return to old favorite spots around the world. And many enjoy having bragging rights, being able to talk about how they did something that was just a little bit different or better than the norm. Whenever a travel advisor can elevate the standards of their customer service by, for instance, booking that shore excursion that ties into a client’s heartfelt hobby, or by securing a reservation for them at the onboard specialty restaurant that proffers to-die-for cuisine, you give the client a much-sought-after experience - and they will remember (and talk about) what you did for them.
4. Adds value to your relationship with clients.
When you offer something to your clients that they didn’t know - which helps them to save money, save time, and have an extraordinary experience - you deliver on your travel expertise and you add lasting value to that relationship. One sales tenant that hasn’t changed much in this 21st century is that customer satisfaction generally leads to customer loyalty.
5. Increases your revenues.
There was a time when travel agents could rely on a couple of simple and stable revenue sources to serve as the foundation for their businesses. Not so anymore. It seems like the industry is in a constant state of reinventing itself. One way to recoup market share that may have been usurped by online booking engines, or that may have been lost as travel trends changed, is to offer every client added-value services - and get paid by suppliers for selling those extras.
If you’re not already selling ancillary items, it’s time to start. Take some time to get familiar with the offerings, policies, and commissions of your most popular suppliers. By suggesting and handling ancillary items for your clients early in the booking process, you demonstrate your role as a true advisor and provide full service, and that boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Ask yourself, “What other little extras can I sell to my clients today?”
FROM THE SPONSOR: MSC Cruises is the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, based in Switzerland, with a seafaring history that goes back over three centuries. With our cruises, you can choose from five continents, three oceans and a rich selection of cities, beaches, nature reserves, exotic cultures and landmarks. Our fleet currently consists of 15 spectacular ships sailing the world. In addition, MSC will have nine additional new ships come into service by 2026, an €11.6 billion ($13.5 billion USD) investment; along with a brand-new island in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, which will debut in November 2019. Our ships have won numerous awards, including MSC Seaside, which debuted in Miami in December 2017 and was named Cruise Critic’s “Best New Ship.” Visit msccruises.com and learn about the exciting growth and our award-winning ships.