Travel advisors continue to face a perception challenge, according to the Family Travel Association (FTA), which points out that only one out of five families plans their vacation with an advisor. However, when families do work with advisors, they end up giving them the highest travel industry rankings.
Rankings by Families
According to the “U.S. Family Travel Survey,” which is conducted by the Family Travel Association and New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, families say agents have access to better rates, understand their family’s unique want and needs, and they appreciate the hight level of customer care that advisors provide throughout a trip. The survey also revealed that 20 percent of families used a travel agent in the last three years, and of those who did, the parents gave travel advisors the highest grade (a B+), which tied advisors to cruise lines. Most other industry suppliers such as hotels, vacation rentals, tour operators, and online travel agencies received a B grade, while airlines scored a B-.
The families surveyed noted they most value a professional advisor’s “access to better rates and prices” (48 percent), while 41 percent noted their “in-depth understanding” of destinations and vacation types, and 39 percent said they appreciated the unique ability agents have to “deliver the vacation experience we are looking for.” While 34 percent of the respondents said their advisor “gets to know me and my travel preferences and can tailor recommendations for me.”
“Today’s American family has so much going on in their lives, between extracurricular school activities, workplace demands and the simple stress of managing a household,” said Rainer Jenss, FTA president and founder in press materials. “That’s why those who have used agents understand the value professional advisors create, not for the family bank account, and the family’s ‘sanity account’.”
The survey also noted that 34 percent of respondents said agents “are there for me when something goes wrong,” while 32 percent said professional advisors “minimize the risk of disappointment.” In addition, 31 percent said they are glad to pass on researching and booking vacations because it’s too time-consuming, while 21 percent said researching vacations presents too much confusing information.
“Very few things can be more stressful than traveling with your children,” said Sally Black, FTA board advisor, director of the FTA Travel Agent Initiative, and owner of VacationKids.com in press materials. “Flight delays, itinerary changes, just traversing an airport. Professional travel advisors are your virtual assistants, helping families navigate through the maze of confusion and stress, waiting to catch you you fall.”
Learn to Sell to Families
Earlier this year, the FTA developed and launched the FTA Academy, the industry’s first training and certification program dedicated to the specialty of family travel. It sets the standard for knowledge, expertise, and excellence for agents who make it a priority working with families.
Agents Need to Market Themselves More
According to the survey, some families are naturally disinclined to use a professional travel advisor, while many more, if they had a better understanding of the value agents create and how they work.
About 50 percent of the survey respondents said they can find all the information they need online, while 43 percent said they enjoy the process of researching and planning their vacations. However, the survey also showcased areas where the industry and travel professionals can improve the way they inspire and engage families. About 36 percent said they think a professional advisor will add to the cost of their vacation, while approximately one out of five (22 percent) said they didn’t think working with an agent would provide the assistance they needed.. And, 11 percent of families who responded to the survey said they don’t understand what agents do, while another 10 percent said they wouldn’t know how to choose one.
“Professional family travel advisors have a ‘birds eye view’ of the entire industry, so they can often suggest options better suited to a family’s wishes, and likely at a more affordable price. It doesn’t cost you more to use a travel agent—it saves you money,” said Black.
Jenss added that, “So many parents have yet to use a travel agent and discover the possibilities that they can open a family up to. The FTA is committed to both helping agents understand how to market themselves and target this critical market, but also, to help families find their way to lifetime relationships with great agents.”
For more tips from the Family Travel Association, click here.