Tour operator executives share their top tips for travel advisors

This week, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) celebrated its annual conference and market, bringing partners from around the world to San Diego to network and play for business over the next year and beyond. of the.

One of the most important messages was that, like travel counsellors, tour operators are needed more than ever to help consumers navigate increasingly complex and ever-changing protocols and regulations. While operators continue to stress this importance, advisors must too.

“I think the value proposition for the travel advisor has improved dramatically, people want to travel…people are getting it a little bit more,” said USTOA’s Terry Dale.

When asked how advisors can drive business as demand continues to come back online in 2022, here’s what a few tour operator executives said.

Billing fees
Scott Wiseman of Apple Leisure Group (ALG) said it’s time for travel advisors to recognize that their services are worth more than ever and put a price tag on it.

“Now is the time for advisors to put a price on their expertise. They shouldn’t be afraid to charge for their services,” he said.

For those who haven’t been charged a fee, start slowly, Wiseman said, perhaps with a cancellation fee that would allow them to earn compensation for the work they do, regardless of the impact of COVID. -19 or weather or another travel crisis.

Figure out what works for you and your customers, then go from there. While it doesn’t all have to happen all at once, even a small start can lead to a change in business model and less reliance on vendor compensation.

“It’s one thing to add value, but I think it’s time to put a dollar amount in it and really monetize,” he said.

stay patient
COVID-19 is still the main news driving the travel industry more than 18 months later after first taking over the world in February 2020. Whenever the industry thinks it’s clear, more information impacts travel, from Delta to Omicron to everything beyond.

It’s incredibly easy for so many travel advisors to get overwhelmed over the past couple of years. But those who have been able to survive and prosper throughout the period are those who have remained patent.

“I would like to remind them of the old adage that patience is a virtue,” said USTOA’s Terry Dale.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard during the pandemic that they book and book only one company and that must be difficult. Patience is a virtue,” he added.

Have a backup plan
Consumers want to travel. So many people are determined to travel with dates and funds sorted well in advance. The why and when of travel decisions are locked in for many customers. It’s up to the travel advisors to determine how and where.

“Have a few backup plans in mind even if they’re designed for your clients…to change them if something happens,” said Elizabeth Crabill, CEO of CIE Tours.

And sometimes it’s not even enough to have that second plan ready, she added.

“I believe a lot of them are already doing that and getting really good and having a plan B and a plan C in place.”

Some advisors have done this so regularly during the pandemic period that a new buzzword has been coined: trip-stacking.

Differentiate yourself on service
COVID-19 has made using a travel advisor easier to communicate than ever. Advisors need to look at it, not just on service, but also on value.

“They should sell the value they provide and differentiate on service,” Collette’s Jeff Roy said.

“That environment has become very complex and when you’re selling through a travel agent to a consumer…there’s a lot of information coming out,” he said.

With things constantly changing and the list of requirements for traveling ever growing, “it’s really important to get them into the hands of the customer as soon as possible.” Failure to follow this communication could result in delays or forced cancellations or loss of money or worse.

Advisors need to communicate early and often to their clients what is needed. Informing a customer in plain language of what to do and when will not only make their life easier, but also help them retain repeat customers.

“Number one,” said Holland America’s Charlie Ball, “if your client has the ability to carefully and accurately fill out our pre-trip information, invest the time to do so.”

Choose your partners wisely
Ball also added that “Any travel agent choosing vacations for their customers needs to find partners who won’t leave their customers stranded.”

Remember those early days of COVID when advisors not only lost commissions, but spent time trying to get a client’s money back? It can still happen.

“We are still in a period where difficult things don’t happen to anyone – choose people who will support you as an agent so that a bad result is achieved as little as possible,” he added.