Remember when you could count on one hand how many mobile travel apps there were in the industry? Of course you can. It was only a few years ago. But now there are countless numbers of apps being offered by everyone from fellow agents to wholesalers to suppliers to tourism boards. In addition to mobile apps, other travel-related technology keeps rolling out year after year from hotels offering check-in and check-out services on a tablet to digital bracelets that can record a hotel guest’s spending.
“Just like in 2014, technology is going to become more and more important in the travel industry,” says Andrey Zakharenko, owner and founder of Russian Connections, based in San Francisco, CA. “At year’s end, Google and Amazon are close to entering the travel industry, and countless apps are attempting to do more and more for the traveler.”
And once you get the technology thing down, you also have to stay educated on the very thing you sell: the world. “More and more, we will have to be educators on world geography and world events,” says Zakharenko. “In 2014, we had the threat of Ebola taking over the news and creating panic in the nation. Many did not want to travel for fear of catching Ebola. On the political front, we had unstable environments in Mexico [Acapulco], Thailand [Bangkok] and in response to the situation going on in Ukraine, many avoided traveling to Ukraine and canceled their trips to Russia in protest. These are just some of the events that the media jumped. All of these stories lead to many people being scared of traveling abroad. I hope that 2015 will be a more stable year, but we have to be ready to adapt to the changes that will come in 2015.”
The Solution: Learn only what you need to know, but make sure you are learning from the right source.
It’s impossible to learn every app from every hotel of every destination in the world and still have time to sell actual travel, but it’s not impossible to concentrate only on what you sell.
Find those destinations you specialize in or the niche you sell and delve into everything related to it. Download all apps of hotels you sell and download all apps of any group that applies to your niche.
“Time management is very important in our business, so devote 30 minutes to discover and read up on what is happening in the tech sector,” says Zakharenko. “The major travel publications such as Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler always have features about new tech to help the everyday traveler. Save those and then during your 30 minutes a day, try out some of the recommendations and see if they can be a good fit for you and your clients.”
As far as being a world news educator goes, don’t rely solely on the news. We are well aware that there are a lot of media who love to sell fear. For example, when gang violence plagued Mexico’s U.S.-bordering towns a few years ago, CNN put up a picture of Cancun to illustrate the story, although Cancun is more than five hours away from the cities in question.
Andrey Zakharenko, Russian Connections: “Devote 30 minutes to discover and read up on what is happening in the tech sector.”
Instead, rely on those you trust the most. Talk to supplier partners you may have on the ground at these destinations. Talk to tour operators. Find out what they are hearing about clients’ concerns. Get a head start. If operators are getting these questions, you will be too.
Also, go there! If you are confident the product you are selling is safe or that the issues there do not affect tourism, go there and show the world how safe it is. Use the advantage agents have today with social media. Post some photos of yourself enjoying the destination in a safe fashion and clients will then see the proof. They won’t think you’re merely looking to ink a deal.
“Agents can use world events as a way to show their expertise as a travel professional and raise their social media clout by educating the general public about current events,” says Zakharenko. “Depending on the client, it may be worth it to explain the situation to the client and the potential benefits of going now versus another time: less people, better value. Of course suggesting a safe alternative could be the best strategy, so have one ready.”