It’s safe to say that the travel market is a challenging one. There is so much competition out there and you need to make sure that you’re seen, heard, and more importantly – that you’re the one people think of when they want to book their holiday. So how do you do this? It’s actually not rocket science – it’s more about having the know-how and tools to do what you do best and to shout about it.

Following on from my previous blog about traditional travel agencies vs online booking agents, I’ve put together a Travel Agent’s Survival Guide to help you to stay ahead of your competitors.

1. Start with the Facts

With so much political unrest and the threat of terrorism, it’s no surprise that people are nervous about travelling to certain destinations. I’m afraid to say that I am one of those people – and whilst I refuse to give into terrorists, I also refuse to put my family in harm’s way. This is a huge reason for people to turn to the traditional travel agent. Arm yourself with the facts. Know about your destinations inside out, and have answers to those all-important questions ready to reassure your customers. If customers feel they can trust you to look after them and their loved ones – they will feel confident to book with you every time. You simply cannot get that level of service online.

2. Go that Extra Mile

Unfortunately, good customer service is often hard to find. If that one person goes out of their way to help you – it really stands out. Listen to your customers, give them what they need – and then give them even more. If you provide outstanding service, your customers will shout about you on social media. Ask your customers to rate you on your Facebook Page, on Google and on Twitter. Positive reviews and recommendations are the best form of marketing out there and they’re completely free! All you have to do is be excellent at what you’re already doing.

3. Re-educate the Do-It-Yourself Traveller

Do-it-yourself travellers tend to use online booking websites because they think it’s easier and saves time – but what if the traveller has special requests or needs to change their booking? The do-it-yourself travellers need to see that it’s actually easier and much more beneficial to go through a travel agent. But how do you re-educate them? In my opinion, the best way to do this is through your marketing (and your customer reviews of course). You need to really showcase your expertise and the benefits of booking through you. Be a one-stop-shop where nothing is too much trouble (even the family with one vegan, one coeliac and a lactose intolerant child). Take the pain out of every element of the booking and you will stand out a mile.

4. Technology, Technology, Technology

You have to embrace new technologies. It’s as simple as that. How does your website look to potential customers? Can they find you on Google? Can they use your site easily on mobile devices? If not, then you need to do something about this.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do their research before going on holiday. Whilst you are the experts and you have all the knowledge to guide your customers, they need to be able to find you online and they need to see, at a glance, what you’re about. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Post beautiful images of your destinations to inspire people to travel. Shout about your excellent customer service and knowledge, and have the technology to back this up.

Your website needs to be fresh, modern, easy-to-use and mobile friendly. It needs to be inspiring. If it is none of these things – why would customers choose you over your competitors?

5. What about an App?

Offering your very own free travel itinerary app shows customers that you care about them. It shows them that you have their best interests at heart and that you want to make their trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Why wouldn’t your customers want all of their booking information on their mobile phone rather than carrying 20 pieces of paper around with them? Offer this service and it’s another string to your bow.

All of the above points are, in my opinion, essential for travel agents to not only survive, but to thrive in a challenging market. You know your customers better than anyone but you have to keep up with the latest technology, trends and information to maintain a high level of customer service.