Travel agents will face tougher competition for disposable personal income, John Risner, general manger of Results! Travel recently told members of the 900-location franchise group. At the network’s recent annual meeting, Risner said that the competition faced by agents isn’t just down the street or from traditional Internet booking sites but from new sources that compete with agents for disposable income.
Urging agents to be prepared for changes in the economy and the industry, Risner said new technologies, personal entertainment and social networking sites are emerging to challenge agencies and compete for the same pool of dollars. Risner, who has been responsible for Results! growth in member agents and sales since its inception in 2000, also warned that travel agents might face future challenges to their commission revenues and overrides.
“It’s not what’s real, it’s what is perceived,” Risner said, meaning that agents need to focus on each customer’s situation. “If your customers perceive that they may be losing their job, or they don’t have the money to pay their bills, then that is their reality. Then we, as agents, need to base our reality on that. It’s our job to find the positive, and find the products that suit [the clients].”
Risner also raised the issue of industry capacity not matching demand, noting a decrease in the number of travelers and an increase in cabins and rooms. He also expects further consolidation across all sectors of the industry.
Too much marketing is becoming outdated, he warns, and is not geared to attract the next generation of travelers. Agents must understand the next generation of travelers—their wants, needs and how to engage them. On the economy, Risner is cautious. He believes consumer confidence is shaky with increases in unemployment, decreases in disposable personal income spending and a consumer and business credit crunch.
Risner also presented a 10-point business preparedness plan to Results! Travel members to help them deal with challenges, such as a weak economy, or natural disasters, such as Hurricane Ike. Highlights of the preparedness plan include tips for agents to review their business model, identify their target customers and review what they're charging for their knowledge and expertise.
Risner also urged agents to reach out to existing customers to remind them of all of the services agents offer and the destinations the agency specializes in. He also urges agents not be afraid of trying something new.
Results! Travel has $2.2. billion in sales and is part of The Travel Franchise Group, formerly Carlson Travel Franchise Group.