I recently returned from the U.S. Tour Operators Association Annual Conference & Marketplace, held this year at The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel in Banff, Canada. As always, it was a great opportunity to discuss the coming year with the top tour operators in the industry, and you can read more about it online at TravelAgeWest.com/EditorsBlog.
One of the highlights of this year’s conference was a seminar conducted by Peter Yesawich of Y Partnership, publishers of the annual “Leisure Travel Monitor,” a comprehensive study of consumer travel habits. Yesawich presented a dizzying collection of statistics aimed at identifying important characteristics of today’s travelers in order to refine marketing strategies. The presentation was at once exciting and overwhelming because of the amount of information presented and the range of marketing opportunities available. When Yesawich finished, I heard one tourism marketing executive ask another, “Are you as stressed out as I am? Where do we begin?”
In fact, I think this is a common response when it comes to developing a new marketing plan — especially from agents. Many agents seem to be stuck in an era of photocopied flyers and signs in a store window, when the cost and availability of more sophisticated marketing techniques has never been more within reach. So as we begin a new year, and with most reports showing business trending slowly upward, agents should consider making just one more resolution: to re-examine their marketing plans and vow to adopt at least one new strategy. You can go with your instincts and research the method you are most comfortable with — database marketing, e-mail blasts, e-newsletters, mobile ads and apps, whatever — as long as it is a method you have not tried before.
Just to prove I practice what I preach, not only have we launched several new electronic initiatives here at TravelAge West in the past year, including our Connection series of live, online events, but we debut a fresh, new look in this issue as well.
According to Yesawich, travel agents had better be open to change when it comes to finding and keeping customers, because a successful approach over the next few years will require flexibility, personalization and innovation. If you want to see your business continue to grow over the next decade, you will need to get ahead of the marketing curve, because technology, like time, waits for no one. —K.S.