The global travel agency market has grown by an average of 12.2% each year for the past six years, according to a recent report by Travelution. In Australia, travel agencies’ AGR has risen to 2.6% and the industry directly employs almost 30,000 agents.
In recent years, the travel agency market has taken a big hit. Online booking tools allow consumers to find and arrange trips themselves, cutting out the middleman – and some of the cost. Back in 2013, industry news outlets were reporting a drastic dip in travel agent numbers. Since then, the travel sector has grown and is almost back to peak levels once more.
Many more agents are independent and home-based than ever before, with the online model working well on a freelance basis. However, there is a growing demand for a return to the traditional brick-and-mortar travel agency, with face-to-face meetings and a local point of contact.
Who is driving the current travel sales trends?
Surprisingly, millennials are the biggest group using travel services and buying trips these days, overtaking Matures and Gen Xers by some way. Younger people travel more and they do so more often, with 61% saying they plan to take a trip in the next year and 30% planning to use a travel agent in the next two years. In a market previously dominated by older buyers, it is now young people who are leading the way and shaping the future of travel sales.
8 out of 10 millennials who already use a travel agent say they do so because of that agent’s expertise and knowledge. Travel for younger generations is more experience based, and this age group has less financial responsibility so they have more disposable income. They will pay out for better accommodation, with the unique factors and genuine customisation. Under-35s are more open to diverse destinations and have a wide set of demands and expectations: package deals and tours are less likely to cut it, and travel agents need to tailor the trips they sell.
Safety and convenience: The benefits of travel agents for clients
Travel has changed in recent years, with a high international threat level and a series of high-profile natural disasters, aircraft catastrophes and travel horror stories shaking public perception of travel safety. However, the role of the travel agent is to reassure clients and to keep them as safe as possible. This could be through providing insurance, rearranging flights, sorting out medical care, providing information on alternative destinations or rescheduling trips.
When an airline problem strikes and passengers are left stranded, it is travel agents who put in the legwork and get passengers rebooked on alternative flights. If an earthquake, flood or act of violence strikes a place where a client is visiting, the agent will do all they can to get that client to safety and make sure they are looked after. Today’s travel agent is a whole new breed, delivering a problem solving bespoke service to young globetrotters in real-time using the latest technology and networking solutions.
Other benefits of using an agent:
- Agents are often far cheaper than DIY bookings
- Expert advice can get you more than the average trip
- Discover destinations and venues not previously considered
- Support and advice from pre-booking to arrival home
- A whole host of extras and bonuses to enhance any trip
People always like to get more for their money. Research by OZCodes discovered that 73% of customers would choose a travel agency who offered a discount voucher or free gift with new bookings, and 54% feel their last travel agent experience did not offer enough value overall. If an agent is going to succeed in today’s difficult travel marketplace, they need to offer something special alongside the typical travel sales provisions.
Virtual reality: Giving clients a taste of the travel experiences they can have
Experiential travel marketing is growing. Travel consumers are no longer swayed by nice pictures, glossy brochures, and television adverts: this area has become over-saturated and it is hard to stand out. The traveler of today is far more interested in experiences and needs a little more hands-on convincing if you want them to buy. Presentations and pitches should include interactive elements, and be tailored to your clients’ interests.
Virtual reality is one way of bringing travel experiences into the agency and showcasing destinations for clients. Using headsets and high-tech graphics, consumers can actually tour attractions and locations for themselves, from the comfort of their own home. Travel booking sites including Lastminute.com and hotel chains such as Starwood are already embracing VR technology and using it to give their products and services an extra push.
Airlines, independent agencies and travel sales sites can all use VR in a positive way and boost travel overall. 56% of consumers state that when it comes to using VR in everyday life, travel experiences are the area that gets them most excited.
Sophia is simply a travel freak and crazy researching about new places that she can explore. Recently visited Singapore tour and it was memorable. She dreams to go for a world tour once in a lifetime and put it down in words and also write for OZCodes . Follow her on Google+ to discover more about travel destinations.