“Computer says no.” The much-used phrase from a Little Britain sketch featuring a rather unhelpful travel agent is now almost fifteen years old (yep, you’re that old) and agents have come a long way from sitting in a shop waiting for clients to come in or call.
And then COVID-19 hit.
“While the bricks and mortar agent will still be relevant, they can't rely on the low hanging fruit to survive anymore,” Agents of Influence founder and travel producer Jeremy Drake told Traveltalk.
“Agents on the high street will need to get creative if they want to survive. They'll need to become online storytellers, hyper-local digital marketers, advocates and in some cases, specialists for certain destinations where they can provide the sort of insight no other agent can.”
Drake was on a famil in the USA with a group of talented agents and was “struck by their passion to create and tell beautiful stories”.
Fast forward to a world mid-coronavirus and many of these agents have now lost most of their incomes. It was time to reassess the role of the agent.
“Agents will now be looked upon as ambassadors, destination pioneers and educators for their customers who are navigating a post-pandemic travel world,” the collective says.
These are agents who not only have a repeat client base, but also have a strong social media presence, and as such can tell a destination’s marketing stories, and use their unique content and social media skills to deliver on a brand’s marketing objectives and make REAL sales at the same time.
It’s trade marketing that’s done with return on investment in mind, Drake says.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, online is for looking, but experienced travel agents like those we’ve managed to bring together for the AOI are for booking,” he said.
AOI offer a “unicorn opportunity”, able to deliver both quality content as well as sales leads.
“I realised that businesses need more than just beautiful content; they want measurable sales from people who know how to also connect with consumers,” Drake said.
“An AOI can help to bridge that gap by providing a destination with rights-free content and an innate understanding of how to turn that content into a customer.”
What if you’re an agent who wants to get onboard, but doesn’t have the skill set? AOI has a training program too.
So the AOI will start to offer brands authentic, creative and affordable content along with social marketing solutions as part of bespoke agent famils, agent or hotel destination matching, itinerary creation and agent training.
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