If travel agent industry leaders continue to be satisfied with isolated part-timers then all hope is lost. Put a fork in travel agents.
However, if industry leaders encourage full-time dedicated professional travel agents to form strategic business alliances and partnerships with travel writers to act as online demand generators there is reason to be hopeful. In other words, either they decide as an industry to get the message out online about the value they provide or they will parish.
“The writing’s been on the wall for some time, now the internet is really taking over,” said Anthony Cork of Wilkins Kennedy, an accounting and research firm in the UK.
In a recent article in The Telegraph entitled ‘Websites Book Travel Agents Final Journey’ a very interesting point was made about a new “phenomenon as part of a wider boom in so-called collaborative consumption, whereby individuals make savings by swapping, sharing and renting resources from each other via the internet.” This new concept pioneered by AirBnB has the travel industry on notice that distribution channels are changing.
Another study by Global Travel Group revealed that 90% of travel agent customers are over the age of 40. Candidly, this may have more to do with the type of travel that those over 40 have the resources and ability to purchase, but the implications are ominous. Many of those under 40 are booking their own travel online and will continue to do so when they reach midlife. The Travel Agent industry is losing this demographic group forever unless it does something now to tell the story of the value they offer.
An article in Travel Weekly entitled ‘Tour Operators cautious in embracing technology for mobile and tablets” seems to provide additional insight as to why Travel Agents seem to be losing the battle. If tablets and smartphones are out pacing the desktop PC market, would it not seem logical to have mobile optimized websites? I guess many travel operators don’t think so.
I gained considerable insight from a ground breaking exercise called “The Travel Blog Project” in which I led a group of 235 travel agents on a 100-day multi-channel marketing effort. Candidly, most agents dropped out and of the 50 or so that completed the online marketing exercise only a few continued to update their blogs and social media on a regular basis. What I learned from this experience was that travel agents do what they do well. They find the best deals and book travel. They have neither the inclination, skills nor enough time to devote to truly effective content marketing. They need a marketing department and travel writers can fill this need.
I believe the only possibility for saving the travel agent industry from extinction is to form strategic partnerships with travel writers. The travel writers fill the role of demand generators and the travel agents provide fulfillment in booking the trips. This strategic partnership will help writers monetize their writing skills and agents to have a consistent flow of clients.