What value will clients pay for?
When I first worked in travel there was no internet. Yes I am that old. So when someone wanted to travel they went to a 'travel expert and booking agency'. Your good old travel agent. In fact in the UK if a traveller felt confident in their own choices they could only call either Portland Travel or Tjaereborg. Those were really the first two direct book travel businesses. Otherwise it was your high street travel agency.
Fast forward a few decades and where will travellers book in 2024 and beyond? For many travellers they don't see value in using a travel agency as the majority of their air, hotel, transport and even cruise needs can be satisfied by Google.Travel, Tripadvisor, online solutions or supplier direct websites.
So where do travel agencies and travel management companies fit into the new distribution and booking world? There are still areas of value, as deemed by the clients and buyer, and these need to be understood, implemented and marketed if you want to thrive in 2024. Here are a few areas of consideration:
Access to the right content and competitive price'. Over the last four weeks we have conducted over 1,000 spot checks on a number of flights and hotels for late 2023 and early 2024. Now we all know prices alter quickly and can be availability and demand driven as well as suppliers using complex AI to massage their prices real-time. Let's be honest - it's a nightmare for anyone to manage. No-one can claim to have access to the lowest price all the time. So what does the client expect and accept? You need to revisit your distribution channels - GDS, direct connect, third party consolidators (and don't get us started on, NDC) and maybe become a specialist rather than a generalist.
Your costs. A really interesting aspect here is that very few travel businesses fully understand their own cost base. They don't understand the 'cost per seat' or direct cost per hour of the team. You need to do some deep diving into your business to be able to appreciate the cost that should be used when you do your pricing. If the net cost is $6 and you charge $4 what is the result?
Automation. Don't fool yourself believing you have a touch-less operation. To deliver competitive pricing reduce or eliminate non-value add human interaction within the booking and administrative processing. The human engagement needs to drive increased selling opportunities, building trust with the buyer and removing any price hurdle.
Your team. There is global shortage of up and coming passionate travel professionals. When online booking solutions and online travel agencies removed the need for travel consultants for basic bookings this was when the issue started. Travel consultants, leisure and corporate, needed this area of learning before graduating to complex and experience led selling. On the back of this and the COVID effect of thousands of travel professionals leaving the industry we are in a big hole. This is why the importance of investing in your team members is more important today than ever. Identify your stars, help them develop, mentor them, get external coaching and demonstrate your nurturing culture. If you don't be prepared to say good-bye to them as they seek a more rewarding environment.
Will the client appreciate your value specifically for the price you charge? At this years ITMC conference we will de discussing how quality can be long remembered when the price has been forgotten.
There are many more areas for consideration and you may feel you don't have the time to delve into them. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail................Benjamin Franklin'