I’m technically on the cusp of Generation X and Generation Y, which means that, yes, I remember the cassette and Apple IIe, and no, I didn’t really use either. I shop both on- and off-line, rarely carry cash and when I travel for leisure it is with my partner or friends and family. But do I use a travel agent? Sometimes.
So how do you convince me, or someone like me, to use the services of a travel agent more, if at all?
Sell your technology [READ THIS POINT EVEN IF YOU SKIP THE OTHERS]
I was talking to roomsXML Managing Director Mark Luckey about the future of travel agents when it hit me that of all the reasons out there to book with a travel agent the one that would get me through their doors is the one I have never heard championed before: their access to technology.
Yes, travel agents have the know how, they have the experience, they’re protected and offer me a safety net should something go wrong, but you have to remember who you’re talking to. Gen Y/Millennials are unbreakable. We simply don’t care enough about these safety nets. Plus, we generally think we’re smarter than you.
But if you tell me that you have access to technology that allows you to search for everything I can (and then some) and you can do that ten times faster, I’m listening.
Decking out your agency in posters of holidays that are about as cool as my aunt’s spoon collection will make me think that you’re geared towards the Baby Boomer and I won’t come in. Yes, Baby Boomers are big business…now, but like Whitney said, the children are our future.
We’re really talking about inclusion here. Be Gen Y/Millennial friendly. That means embrace technology and social media talk, tell me about a similar tour you booked for a person of my generation (and never say things like “a person of my generation”). Don’t hide behind that computer of yours. Show me, on your iPad, one of the videos you took on your last famil or a hilarious YouTube ad that Las Vegas Tourism put out.
I am more loyal to my hairdresser than I am to my travel agent. I don’t even really have a travel agent. Why? Because my holidays, unlike my hairstyles (bar a disastrous perm in the Noughties when I thought things were different), change.
As a young student travelling the world I went to the STA near my uni campus because I believed they would understand that I could deal with a ten hour train journey into the heart of Morocco while balancing on a broken seat to save a few bucks and they would not judge. Would I go there to book my upcoming business trip to the US? No.
I want to book with specialists. Otherwise, and these are the words of death for a travel agent: I’ll do it myself.
Talk the talk (online)
If I look up a shoe store online and that storefront doesn’t have a website, the reality is that I skip it for one that does. Same goes for a travel agent. I want to see what you’ve done and if you sell what I want before I go in.
Just like your storefront, your website has to be accessible, relevant and appealing. That means good content and awesome pictures and videos. ****TRAVEL AGENTS, I URGE YOU TO TAKE CONTENT FROM US AND PUT IT ON YOUR SITES.
Get others to talk the talk
Get good reviews online and more people will come. Encourage your clients to talk about you on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll get their friends.
And, know this, Gen Y/Millennials still talk to their friends face to face, so give them a story to tell. Word of mouth, in any form, is free advertising and it’s the most trusted.
Don’t nag, just be there when I need you
My mum is always right. Always. It’s annoying. But she has never been on my back even when I make what is clearly the wrong decision (perm, in the Noughties, anyone?). And she's always there to fix something I've broken. I mention this, because, I think, in a way we are always looking for Mum-like help when we pay for a service.
I don’t need to hear that my generation and the next one (fast being dubbed Millennials despite my preference of the iGeneration) are hard to market to, that we’re full of the hubris of the young and that we will always choose online offerings over face to face interaction. Yes, I think it’s easier, faster and cheaper to book a flight to Sydney from Melbourne when online. If I were to head into a travel agency and hear otherwise, I’d walk out. But would I book a round the world ticket online? Never. Because just like other generations, I will make use of a travel agent when my proposed holiday is too hard to book myself.
So, while I may not be your ideal customer or your target market, don’t lock me out.
At the end of the day, a top travel agent can win anyone’s business if they offer a good value for money offering that meet’s the client’s needs. It’s just a matter of communicating that in way Gen Y/Millennials understand.
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