Why Savvy Agents are Adopting a Concierge Mindset

29th September 2016 -

Today’s travellers have more resources at their disposal than ever before. They can research and book trips online using a multitude of gadgets, from iPads to smartphones, and consulting a number of websites, from Google to TripAdvisor. What’s more, they are performing these functions on the go, when the mood takes them – any time, any place, anywhere.

But rather than ringing the death knell for traditional travel agents, this scenario has created new opportunities to capture an audience that despite being digitally motivated and enabled, also craves personalisation and the human touch. Smart travel agents have therefore evolved to better meet the needs of today’s attention-hungry travellers.

How Have They Done it?

Firstly, they’ve conceded that the transactional model no longer works, because online players do it better. Cautious of being commoditised as just another sales channel, the successful agents have therefore focused their efforts on the customer experience and building long-term relationships. The 21st Century travel agent is a “concierge, advisor and confidante”, according to Skift’s ‘Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016’ report.

Rather than fear technology, agents are embracing it, using tools such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to communicate with their clients. Through these media, travellers can call, text or message their travel advisor to fix a problem mid-trip, or even to quiz them before making travel plans. As a result, agents are becoming more integrated with the daily lives of their customers, providing them with travel information on the fly.

“The travel agent of the future is focused on the end-to-end customer experience, utilising technology to forge relationships with travellers,” confirms Skift.

“Success for travel agents moving forward rests on continuously learning more about their customers. They’re diving deep into deciphering data in a holistic manner.”

Agents need to collect data to map out the travel habits of their clients, but much of this will be gleaned through personal interactions. In-depth conversations and post-trip debrief will give advisors an advantage that online booking sites can’t replicate. New technology can be a help, not a hindrance to travel agents, as long as they use their knowledge and client relationships to their advantage.

Traveltek Software Solutions

Agents must also make sure they use next-generation technology to manage and automate their business. Companies like Traveltek provide a suite of fully-integrated solutions that empower travel agents and operators to be the ultimate travel concierge, enabling them to dynamically package custom itineraries using their product knowledge and our advanced technology.

They can hand-pick components of bespoke travel plans from their own stock, or through the Traveltek API, which connects them to more than 200 leading travel suppliers worldwide. Our web-based solutions will then bring the entire package together in the language and currency they choose. Our CRM helps agents manage client bookings, enquiries and data, plus we build consumer-facing websites tailored to their exact needs.

Over the last 20 years we’ve transformed offline travel firms into e-commerce success stories and today, Traveltek websites are built to be mobile friendly with today’s digitally-enabled traveller in mind. Intuitive, user-friendly and responsive to all mobile and tablet devices, our websites make sure your customers keep you and your travel business top of mind.

With your travel expertise and our tech know-how, you can become the ultimate travel concierge. We will automate the predictable, while you humanise the exceptional.

Creating an Ocean of Content

21st September 2016 -

Take inspiration from the cruise line hitting the big screen with a TV concept that ‘sells’ a lifestyle and from Traveltek software.

We live in an age where content is well and truly king, with travel brands and destinations using a range of media to bring their products alive. Experiential marketing, as it known, primarily pushed out through social media given the on-the-go digital world in which we live, aims to inspire consumers to book a trip and make their travel dreams a reality.

Travel companies and tourism boards are increasingly turning to video and virtual reality to enrich their content, while some are staging full-scale productions that make their showcase their product or destination. Carnival Corp is the latest travel firm to take the plunge. The cruise giant, which knows a lot about making ships, is now creating TV programmes too.

Three Original Shows Announced 

The company announced this week that it has produced three original shows starring travel personalities and lots of cruise ships, with a view to airing them on US networks such as ABC, NBC and The CW on Saturday mornings – a slot deemed prime time for family viewing. Around 80 episodes will be broadcast between October this year and September 2017, with a view to revealing the vast range of experiences available to cruise guests, according to Carnival Corp’s Chief Experience and Innovation Officer, John Padgett.

The TV shows also aim to dispel common myths about cruising and promote the wide range of experiences on offer to cruisers of all ages. Two of the programmes, ‘Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin’ on ABC and ‘The Voyager with Josh Garcia’ on NBC feature each host taking part in activities offered by Carnival. Corwin, a well-known conservationist and host of Animal Planet, will focus on adventure experiences and Garcia, a video journalist who recently appeared on the Weather Channel show, Brainstorm, will explore culture, food and personalities in ports.

Padgett’s Take

Padgett says the goal of the show is to “authentically represent” what passengers can do during a cruise. In the past, several travel and cruise brands have been featured in TV programmes, from game shows and reality TV to feature films, but this marks the first time a cruise line has partnered with an independent company to develop and produce TV content and to syndicate it to television networks.

Each episode will feature the tagline ‘OCEAN by Carnival Corporation’, described as a ‘platform that connects people, places and cultures using original content programme’. Padgett says he expects the entire cruise industry to benefit from the shows as they showcase the concept of cruising to the travelling population.

Carnival’s large-scale production efforts spell good news for travel agents, tour operators and most definitely cruise specialists. Not only do they raise awareness of what modern cruising is all about, but demonstrate how the use of high-quality content can boost sales. Of course, most travel retailers and operators do not have the budget to fund dedicated TV shows, but when selling cruise or any other travel product, it’s important to provide as much customer insight as possible through good quality content.

How Technology Can Help Your Business

Traveltek’s CruisePro cruise selling solution provides up-to-date and comprehensive cruise content that’s designed to maximise cruise-selling opportunities, from cruise line and cruise ship descriptions to detailed cabin information and supporting images that bring the product to life.

We also give travel companies the option to make edits and additions based on their own product knowledge and experience. Using our cruise administration tool, agents can also upload their own images, write their own descriptions, add in extra details and even create their own cruise itineraries. No other cruise selling system on the market offers this level of content flexibility.

While the likes of Carnival are doing a great global PR job for the booming cruise industry, the travel trade, with a little help from Traveltek, can tap into the growing demand for cruise and provide clients with tempting, content-rich cruise options and itineraries.

 

Meet the Millennials

14th September 2016 -

Do you remember the turn of the Century when the doomsayers predicted the end of the physical travel agent was imminent? As we left the nineties behind us and entered the noughties, we were all led to believe the new digital players and online travel technology would leave the traditional bricks-and-mortar agencies for dust.

16 Years On

Fast forward 16 years and the offline agency community is alive and kicking worldwide – we needed the expertise and personal touch that only real-life travel professionals could provide after all. And funnily enough, it’s the new wave of travellers, now commonly referred to as Generation Y or the ‘Millennials’, that is helping drive travel agent success.

This immensely influential consumer demographic, which is roughly characterised by those born between 1980 and 1996 (aged 20 to 36), presents a medley of complex but exciting opportunities for the travel industry. Not only is this the fastest growing demographic in the world from both a workplace and marketplace, accounting for more than 34% of the global population, according to research firm Viacom, but contrary to popular belief, Millennials like booking with agents.

In fact, recent research conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) reveals Millennials are more likely to use an agent than any demographic group of older travellers. “Millennials are leading the way in travel agent usage,” confirms ASTA president Zane Kerby in an interview with travel trends firm Skift. “Thirty per cent have used a travel agent in the last 12 months, and they’re also most likely to recommend agents to a friend (45 per cent of those polled).”

Overall, an overwhelming majority of Millennials (around two-thirds of those surveyed), say using an agent made their trip better. The survey, conducted by TNS Global, reached out to 14,000 US households with an annual household income above US$50,000.It found that last year, 22 per cent of Americans from these households booked through a travel agent, up 14 per cent from just three years ago.

The report also discovered that consumers who use agents generally spend more on travel than those who book trips themselves. “Travel agent users tend to have more travel budget,” according to ASTA’s director of research and industry affairs, Kevin Wang. “They are going to agents to plan more complex trips.” Agencies that have a robust online presence are also more likely to be used by Millennials, the survey data revealed.

ASTA’s survey is not only a confidence booster for the traditional agent, but clearly provides pointers as to how agents can drive more sales from the Millennial crowd. The two key takeaways are that agents require strong online visibility and need to be able to put together complex itineraries using their product knowledge and the latest travel technology.

How Technology Can Help

This is where industry-specific technology providers like Traveltek play a vital role in supporting the trade. We have been working travel agents and tour operators for almost two decades and offer a suite of cutting-edge solutions that can dynamically package every component of a complex itinerary on one user-friendly platform, in many languages and currencies.

All agents need to do is hand-pick the products and services they require – from flights, hotels and cruise, to transfers, tours and more – and we take care of the rest. Millennials are time poor, but increasing cash rich, and if agents can provide them with a tailor-made travel itinerary quickly and efficiently, they will improve loyalty and drive sales. And of course, Gen Y is tech-savvy and smartphone-reliant, so Traveltek will make sure your web presence is up to date, up to speed and mobile-friendly.

Call us today to find out how Traveltek can help you make the most of the Millennials.

It’s Time to Make Waves in Asia’s booming Cruise Market

7th September 2016 -

Asia’s cruise industry is expanding at an unprecedented rate with capacity growth hitting the double digits as more cruise lines deploy new or extra capacity in the region.

Today there are 12 major passenger source markets generating more than 2.1 million cruise tourists annually, which represents a 39% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in passenger volume since 2012 when the total number of Asian cruisers was just 775,000.

CLIA Stats

China is driving demand, with this untapped travel market now accounting for almost half of the regional passenger volume with 986,000 cruise passengers in 2015, according to the latest statistics released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). In 2016, 31 cruise brands are active in Asia, 60 ships are being deployed in the region and more than 1,560 cruises are scheduled, up from 1,095 in 2015.

Passenger capacity is expected to hit the 3.1 million mark and cruise calls will top 5,570, up 43% on 2015, the CLIA’s Asia Cruise Trends 2016 report has revealed. To provide some historical perspective, the number of port calls in 2016 is almost double that of 2013. Destinations that are making their mark as leading the growth in total port calls are Japan, China and South Korea with 880, 550 and 368 additional calls respectively. Other destinations also generating port call growth are Vietnam (150), Taiwan (59) and Singapore (17).

And while 80% of Asian cruisers sail within the region, they are also ‘testing the waters’ in traditional cruise destinations such as Europe and North America. Europe is the leading destination among long-haul cruisers sailing outside of Asia (74% in 2015), followed by Caribbean/Western U.S./Hawaii (12%) and Alaska/Canada/New England (8%) destinations. As a source market for cruise tourism worldwide, the absolute volume of cruise travellers sourced from Asia has nearly tripled since 2012.

It’s Not Just About China

China might be leading the charge, adding 770,000 more cruise travellers since 2012 – a 66% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) – but four of the five other major Asian cruise source markets have also generated double-digit three-year compound growth. Hong Kong reported a staggering 69% CAGR over the period, followed by India (37%), Japan (30%) and Taiwan (29%).

Of the 1.1+ million non-Chinese Asian cruise tourists reported in 2015, Taiwan was the biggest source market with 228,700 passengers followed by Singapore (182,700) and Japan (179,900), while two other markets generated more than 100,000 cruisers – Hong Kong (126,800) and India (125,900). Other topline Asian cruise trends worth a mention include the overwhelming popularity of short sailings with the greatest share of passengers sailing four to six nights (50%) followed by two to three nights (30%) and in 2016, most capacity will be attributed to the mega and large ships with two and 15 of them deployed in Asia respectively.

Japan, China and South Korea will welcome the most port calls (1,526, 850 and 745 respectively), while top port of calls – those with more than 300 total calls  in 2016 -include Jeju Island, South Korea (460), Baoshan/Shanghai, China (437) and Singapore (391). The big picture is that the cruise industry could bring 10.9 million passenger destination days across local communities in the region this year.

How Cruise Technology Can Help

These impressive figures, detailing the impressive growth and future potential of the Asian cruise industry, usher in a new era for the travel trade, particularly cruise specialists, worldwide. There’s never been a better time to sell cruise to Asian travellers, but to truly capitalise on demand, the industry needs the best cruise technology on the market.

Traveltek has developed advanced cruise booking solutions that are world leading. The company’s unique dynamic packaging product gives cruise specialists the tools to tailor-make itineraries, combining their expertise with its tech know-how to deliver complex itineraries fast and efficiently in one package. Agents can hand pick every facet of a custom cruise itinerary – including pre- and post-cruise flights, hotels, transfers, attractions and more – and sell it in one single package.

Traveltek’s solutions empower specialists to make live, real-time searches, create and manage multiple packages, update and edit them, and crucially, display them in the currency and language of their choice, with Asian options very much part of the offering. With these tools at their fingertips, agents and cruise experts can focus on what they do best – selling.

If supported by the right technology, travel companies can steal a march on their competition, offering their partners and customers a fast and efficient service, bolstered by their specialist knowledge. Cruise experts looking to cash in on the Asian cruise boom need to jump on board with cruise technology solutions that will help them boost sales and grab their market share early in the game.

Asia is now the fourth biggest cruise region in the world in terms of capacity share, but its growth rate is the fastest globally at 32.9% (2015-2016), says CLIA.

Don’t miss the boat!