Travel Leaders Group chief marketing and communications officer Stephen McGillivray outlined how destinations and suppliers can work with travel agency partners to recover after a crisis, create targeted demand and develop marketing programs in an October 3 speech at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC). The conference, themed “Rejuvenate, Recreate, Reconnect – New Directions for Caribbean Tourism” was held at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
The Travel Leaders Group marketing executive urged Caribbean tourism officials to “work closely with your travel agency partners,” stating, “Our advisors were influencers long before social media existed.”
Third-party validation is key to helping consumers make the best decisions about travel planning. “Travel agents are more valuable than ever in helping to guide their clients through information overload,” McGillivray said. “They have earned the trust of their clients and can expose them to undiscovered wonders of the Caribbean. Travel consumers are overwhelmed with information and need an expert to sort it all out.”
He noted that travel agents sell more than two-thirds of all cruises and 68 percent of all package tours, according to Phocuswright, along with the majority of international long-haul travel from the U.S.
Working with advisors who specialize in luxury travel can help destinations weather economic downturns and target tourism growth.
“Luxury travelers don’t want to call an 800 number and hear a robotic voice say, ‘Your call is important to us…please continue to hold.’ They want the number of an experienced professional travel advisor who will treat them to white-glove service,” he said.
McGillivray congratulated the tourism leaders on how they came together after the 2017 hurricanes and forged a path to recovery. He also noted the efforts in correcting misinformation in the market about the size, scale and geography of the Caribbean and the fact that many islands were untouched.
“We partnered with the One Caribbean Family effort, first, to get the facts out to our agent community and our travelers and then to actively promote travel to the Caribbean. We asked our travel advisors to identify themselves as One Caribbean Family Ambassadors through their websites, social media channels and client communications and share the news that the Caribbean was open for business,” he said.
“Success in the future of our industry is not about luck. It’s about partnerships and smart marketing alliances and working together to delight our travelers so they return to our doors and your islands again and again,” he concluded.