Travel agents must have the right technology tools as travellers become more discerning
Almost all the evidence suggests UK travel agents are in line for a strong summer, with long-term indicators from sectors such as luxury and cruise (including luxury cruise) looking good.
Clearly, there are caveats to this – the cost of living crisis, the devastating war in Ukraine, mainstream media milking the passport delays – but generally, the industry is starting to get back into shape.
But the question many agents are asking, or in my humble opinion should be asking, is what sort of shape should that be? Can I just reopen my 2019 planning folder and rename it 2022? Will I be able to sell the same inventory to the same clients through the same channels as I did before?
wbe.travel supplies technology to nearly 50,000 travel agents around the globe, and our approach has always been to work with agents to make sure the tech we provide is the tech they need, be that access to specific inventory, streamlined back-office, business intelligence, booking engines, and so on.
Most of our customers are SMEs, and we’ve noticed agents are approaching the next few seasons with an even sharper sense of knowing who they are. Many are crystal clear about what inventory they need, the clients they need to target and the channels to get to them. But what they are less clear on is whether their existing tech can support this clarity of vision.
Technology can enable each of these requirements, which are best addressed collectively. Access to inventory is fundamental, but if you haven’t got the right type of accommodation, or do not have access to the specific flights, then your channel strategy is irrelevant because the client is already looking elsewhere.
Similarly, you have to know the clients you want to sell to so you have the accommodation they want to book.
For bigger players with a cross-section of target markets, scale is the answer – the more the merrier.
But for SMEs, it really is a question of quality over quantity, which is why the ability to filter the hotel inventory is so important, making sure relevant properties come up when the client is in the shop, on the phone, or browsing online.
If this sounds like a call to arms for the niche and specialist markets and players, you’d be right. You can be a specialist in areas which are mainstream such as mass-market beach destinations, city breaks and bucket-list travel. To serve these clients, agents will need a wide variety of inventory.
Niche is more interesting, particularly if your tech provider allows you to drill down further and to become even more specific. Take LGBTQ+ travel as an example, often framed as a niche despite there being many traveller personas within the community.
With the correct technology, and the correct marketing, agents can create a niche of their own and become providers of luxury LGBT travel for groups, or LGBT-friendly hotels which also allow pets.
Read the whole article on TTG Media.
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