Independent travel consultants should brag more about their first-hand travel expertise, hassle-free trip planning services and their abilities to find the best value for every traveller’s dollar. This will allow “home-based” or “career” consultants to remain competitive with large travel agencies and online booking sites, according to the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA).
NACTA president Ann van Leeuwen (pictured) said studies of research from Statistics Canada, NACTA and its parent organization, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), indicate consultants need to keep up with current statistics and rapidly changing travel demands.
“Our surveys show there is a large window for travel consultants to attract more clients,” said van Leeuwen. “Creating awareness of travel agents in general, with a slogan like ASTA’s trademarked ‘Without a travel agent you’re on your own’ is a basic, first step.” But she adds, “This is just a start.”
The NACTA president said independent consultants have to expand their message to stress the triple benefits to travellers of using a knowledgeable consultant for convenience and maximum value.
“Expertise, convenience and value are the top reasons for our existence,” said van Leeuwen. “We have to convey these messages effectively and aggressively so the consumer understands the value of using a professional travel consultant.”
She said independent consultants must outdo online travel agencies by stressing professional service and the human touch. Consultants have to emphasize their value in saving their clients time and money versus inconvenient, do-it-yourself web sites where travel shoppers only imagine they can find a better bargain.
“It is also important to explain how independent travel consultants can enhance safety and ease of travel while helping clients explore new places, go on unique guided tours and experience different and unusual cuisines,” said the NACTA preisdent. “Should something go wrong before, during or after a vacation, help of the independent agent is one phone call or text away.”
Consultants should budget about 10% of revenues on marketing, NACTA suggests. Some marketing money should go to banner ads on web sites most visited by travellers — destination, Internet search engine and travel review sites. As well, consultants should learn how to use social media as a cornerstone to their marketing promoting the independent consultant’s brand and showcasing the consultant’s particular strengths.