More and more consumers are frustrated by travel websites and are unsure of what they’re buying, according to a recent Forrester Research report cited by Amadeus. As a result, the number of travelers who would consider using a traditional offline agency increased 26 percent in 2009.
Amadeus says Forrester’s report indicates a turnaround as consumers realize the do-it-yourself approach doesn’t always grant them access to the choicest deals, the best trip options or smoothest travel experience—while travel agencies do.
The Forrester report also revealed that 15 percent fewer travelers enjoy using the web and the number of online travel hunters who believe websites do a good job of presenting travel choices has dropped to one in three as more travelers believe their business is taken for granted by websites.
Travel agents have the opportunity to step in as “heroes” and save the day during worst-case travel scenarios—and with today’s erratic travel conditions, more travelers are learning that it can pay to have a hero in your back pocket, Amadeus says in its August Prospectus. Amadeus links agents' ability to deliver client services to good marketing and solid technology tools.
“Travel agents should not be shy about reminding consumers that their knowledge, experience and service is unmatched by any travel website,” advises Betty Balli, manager of travel agency marketing for Amadeus North America.
Amadeus cites Jody Rohlena, senior editor of ShopSmart magazine, when saying that consumers should skip the DIY (Do It Yourself) method in the following situations: international trips, complicated itineraries and in situations when widespread cancellations might occur (i.e. bad weather).
So how do you spread the word about your skills? Amadeus offers several suggestions:
* Host an open house at your agency, which provides face time and boosts your status as a friendly, helpful expert
* Get social by creating a Facebook and Twitter page for your agency. This will develop a loyal following of clients—and it’s a great vehicle to communicate with customers about travel-related news, deals and vacation packages.
* Post information and photographs from your own travel experiences on your agency’s website or even maintaining a travel blog.
“Travel agents should always remember they’re offering customers the personal touch lacking from web sites,” says Jennifer Coulter, senior manager of product marketing and public relations for Vacation.com, a wholly owned subsidiary and partner of Amadeus.
Amadeus’ Balli agrees that it’s important for travel agents to educate consumers about the value their business offers them. "Let your customers know that you not only save them money, but can take the stress out of trip planning and booking," she said. "Remember that you offer the expertise and personal touch. You're there for them in ways a website can never be."