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On May 2, Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA, and Erika A. Richter, ASTA’s director of communications, held a roundtable discussion with a group of media outlets, including Recommend, to examine the findings from the association’s 2017 How America Travels National Study conducted in partnership with global research firm PSB.

Here are a few insights from ASTA’s  survey about the current perspectives and priorities of American travelers that we thought you would find most useful:

  1. Millennials are still the trending demographic in the travel industry. 

“Millennials using travel agents at a higher [rate] than any other age cohort,” says Kerby, “they’re buying packages from travel agents in greater numbers than other groups. It feels like Millennials are looking at the whole travel experience, saying, ‘I’m not coming here to book my airline ticket or book my hotel. Help me find the right things to do when I go to a particular destination.’” Tapping into this burgeoning travel and tourism market could mean an uptick in sales for you, but only if you know your subject. In fact, you may be surprised by some of their travel motivations and spending habits.

  1. Millennials love cruising!

In fact, “Millennials are cruising in great numbers, and they are loving it,” says Kerby. “Ninety percent of the Millennials who took a cruise say they are going to go back and they’re taking, on average, a cruise every other year.”

There is no doubt this group is becoming a major player in the cruising industry as evidenced by the industry leaders who are now catering to this younger generation. Take for example, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. The luxury line is launching a new experiential river cruise brand, U by Uniworld, next year, which will offer nine, adventurous European itineraries aimed at travelers between the ages of 21 and 45. You can read more about the new brand here.

  1. Don’t count out the Boomers; the survey also found that Boomer women are the demographic least likely to handle most or all of their vacation planning on their own.

After all, says Kerby, “Baby Boomers have two things that you need to travel: discretionary time and income.”

  1. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents who have never used a travel agent said they would be more likely to do so if informed that travel agents save their clients an average of $300 per person per trip.

“One of the things that we learned from last year’s research was that on average consumers said, ‘You know, I think using a travel agent saves me about $300 a trip…and also they save me a bunch of time because I’m able to get much faster down the hill to what I really want to do by using an agent,’” says Kerby. You know your value, so the next time you are speaking with a client, sell this benefit as well.

  1. Inserting yourself into your client’s dreaming and planning process is of utmost importance. 

“What we found out from the focus groups that was rather interesting was that people said, ‘Well, I really like planning my trips,” says Kerby. Rather than discouraging clients from clicking around [on the Internet], Kerby suggests agents encourage their clients to do their own research and then bring that information back to them to go over, or for clients to call the agent while they are researching so that they can plan together.

  1. Develop a good CRM strategy.

“A lot of times I think travel agents have a lot of tacit knowledge about their customers, but I don’t get the sense from being out and about and talking to lots of agency owners that it’s written down and that it’s codified in an important place that they can reference all the time,” says Kerby. “I think a good CRM is really, really important.”

Travel advisor and Recommend columnist Susan Farewell shared similar sentiments in her “50 Tips for Travel Agent Success” article in the May 2017 50th Anniversary issue, writing, “Have a very comprehensive traveler’s profile on file for every client and revisit annually.” In addition to that, she encourages travel agents to “Keep in touch with clients throughout the year. Send post cards, short e-mails…”

  1. Another interesting point that the survey revealed was that consumers are not against using a travel agent, rather, says Kerby, “They are more agnostic. They don’t know where to find one at the time of purchase or when they’re dreaming.”

ASTA is helping alleviate this issue with its travelsense.org website, which Kerby says is visited by “over 50,000 people a month to find an travel agent or to look for travel to buy.”

If you’re looking for additional ways to market yourself, in her “50 Tips for Travel Agent Success” article, Farewell recommends travel agents “be active in [their] community. Get involved in silent auctions and other fundraisers where you can get your name in front of residents. Set up speaking engagements with local Rotary Clubs, libraries and schools.”

For more information, visit asta.org.

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