As travel agencies around the world move their shops from Main Street to the Digital highway, the changes in how we do business are profound. You can sit around and talk about how you used to be the go-to agency for your community or you can grab this wave and take your agency into our new world with great aplomb. The biggest opportunities lie within the clientele you target and how you service them.
Your clients can be down the street from you, or they could live in another state or another country. You may have met them or only have had e-mail exchanges. The key is having a niche and marketing it effectively to the demographic you need to reach.
For example, if your expertise is custom designing high-end trips to India, your marketing campaign should focus on reaching English-speaking travelers who are searching for India experts such as yourself. This can be achieved through sustained and strategic use of social media. Done correctly and you will be able to draw clients not only from all over the U.S., but also in the UK, Australia, Singapore, you name it.
Keep in mind that niches need not be limited to geographic specialties. There are agents who specialize in everything from honeymoons to expat travel.
With new opportunities come new challenges and it behooves you to keep on top of these. These include:
• Clients asking for destinations you might not know. Many travelers today are influenced by their social media circles. So whereas in the past, they might have gotten their travel ideas from magazines and their inquiries were never surprising to you, today, they may discover new destinations based on the postings of friends. If the friend lives abroad, they might be vacationing in Cape Verde or in Oman.
• Staying abreast of currency trends. If you are selling to clients in foreign countries, it’s important to know how their currency stands in the world markets. The exchange rate may benefit the client, helping you to make the sale. To sell effectively, the more you know about this, the better.
• Laws and other fine print. Some states in the U.S. require a license to sell travel to its residents. Insurance laws differ across state borders. You may not be able to sell trip insurance to residents of other countries. It’s critical to stay informed and up to date on these legalities.
While how we sell travel and who we sell travel to changes, one thing will never change. That is the importance of listening to the client and how you can best help him/her/them. Whether you are doing this in person, via Skype or Facebook Messenger, or through
a conversation via texts and e-mails, yourmain objective should be to fulfill their travel dreams.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.