Recently, Ypartnership/Harrison Group, as part of its 2011 Portrait of the American Traveler, released some statistics that outline the way consumers make travel-purchasing decisions. The national survey identifies four steps in the buying cycle: Ideas and Inspiration; Advice and Insight; Pricing and Comparing; and Purchasing. Based on this research, it seems that travel agents’ greatest opportunity may be during the first two points in the buying cycle.
According to a press release about the study: “The American traveler casts a wide net when seeking ideas and inspiration for travel-related decisions. Just over half look to family and friends (52 percent), alongside television (48 percent) and a variety of printed media including magazines (49 percent), professional guide books (46 percent) and brochures (43 percent).”
Next, during the “Advice and Insight” phase: “The recommendations of family and friends still top the list (54 percent), followed by travel guide books (44 percent) and travel experts (38 percent).”
The study suggests that agents who focus on inspiring, advising and educating at the start of the trip-planning process have a better chance of providing true value to their clients — thereby building loyalty for future trips. The agents who can effectively establish this relationship with clients early on are going to have the best odds of long-term success.
Incidentally, when it comes to purchasing travel, the survey shows that nearly one in four (23 percent) travelers use travel agents when booking. To me, these statistics make a great case for charging consulting fees during the idea phase and, then, making an all-out effort to secure the booking later on.
Of course, there are plenty of agents that are already ahead of the curve on these strategies, and we honor several of them in this issue’s cover story on our 2011 Trendsetter Award winners (page 12). While all the agents we profile are unique in the details of how they excel, all of them show an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to adapt to new business landscapes.
[Note: If you would like to enter next year’s Trendsetter Awards, send an email to Letters@travelagewest.com, and we’ll contact you when we begin taking entries for 2012 — usually around January.]