Execs Stress Importance of Escorted Tours

Top executives point out the financial, growth benefits of tours By: Kenneth Shapiro
Top tour executives discussed the importance of selling more escorted tours to travel agents during TravelAge West's recent Escorted Tours Connection....
Top tour executives discussed the importance of selling more escorted tours to travel agents during TravelAge West's recent Escorted Tours Connection. // (C) 2010 Photos.com

The Details

TravelAge West Escorted Tours Connection
www.tawtourconnection.com

As Editor-in-Chief of TravelAge West, I recently hosted the Escorted Tours Connection, a Webinar that brought some of the top executives in the tour industry together to discuss issues facing the tour business (go to www.TAWTourConnection.com to hear the full discussion). Some of the most interesting comments made during the panel involved the benefits to agents in expanding their business to include selling more escorted tours.

Overall, customer satisfaction is high with escorted tours — meaning that agents who book them on an escorted tour see more happy clients.

“At Adventures by Disney, we really had to take a look at the customer satisfaction and ask ourselves, ‘Can we deliver the same sort of guest experience, compared to the satisfaction we see in our resorts and on our cruise ships?’” said Sharon Siskie, vice president of travel agency and national account sales at Adventures by Disney. “And at the end of the day, we’ve just been thrilled by the customer feedback we’ve received.”

“All of our companies focus on the customer, and that’s something we share with travel agents,” said Steve Born, vice president of marketing at Globus Family of Brands. “That’s one of the reasons why tours have been able to keep up with the demands of today’s travelers and why we see customer satisfaction as an industry that’s unrivaled in other industries.”

Furthermore, agents stand to make significantly more commission on a tour than a cruise, for instance, according to Mark Kazlauskas, president of Insight Vacation.

“When you compare the entire cost of a cruise with the entire cost of a tour,” Kazlauskas said, “a travel agent is going to earn 12 to 16 percent on a tour and, on a cruise, they are going to earn an effective commission of 5 to 8 percent. It’s a known fact that they will earn double — sometimes triple — in commissions by selling a tour over a cruise.”

“With last year being such a difficult year, when you see what agents are making — especially with some of the discounted rates being offered by the cruise lines — we are definitely getting a lot of interest from agents saying we want to sell more than cruise,” said Frank Marini, vice president of sales at Collette Vacations.

Finally, travel agents can expand their businesses by offering their repeat clientele an escorted tour — especially those clients that have already taken a cruise.

“What happens is that you have a lot of cruise-only agents that lose a big portion of their business because once their clients have taken a cruise, the agent doesn’t have the range of products to keep the client,” said Adam Leavitt, president of marketing at Trafalgar Tours. “In most cases, an agent’s cruise clients are the same customers who will later buy an escorted tour, and the client is going to go somewhere else if the agent can’t help them with their tour business.”

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