August 25 2011 by Bryson Forbes
In early August, Canadian Travel Press ran an exclusive story highlighting a recent survey from Distinctive Travel Planner Services (DTPC) in Vancouver. The survey,conducted in the spring of 2011, polled more than 400 travel counsellors and owners across Canada and dissected the state of retail travel in Canada.
As part owner of a retail agency myself, the article and survey were of particular interest to me and the data highlighted a number of key trends. As more and more travelers turn online to research and book, it is forcing agencies to fight harder to find ways to add value to retain existing client and attract new clients.
Are you noticing some of these trends too?
- Travel consultants are getting older and there are far fewer young people gravitating to the occupation. Sixty percent of consultants are over the age of 46, while only 7.8 percent are 30 or younger. The result supports the idea that Gen X and Y, who are very comfortable online, don't relate to the travel agent model.
- Retail agencies are being forced to offer niche services to help differentiate and compete against online tools. Nearly 65 percent of respondents believe this trend will continue and consultants will need to focus on specific destinations or target particular customer segments. I recently had a great chat with an at-home agent whose business is booming because he is focusing specifically on travel for the disabled. For example, he understands the needs and challenges of getting around a cruise ship in a wheel chair, and this expertise is certainly appreciated by his clients.
- Social media is dominating communication channels as 75 percent of consultants and agency owners agree that they will be putting a significant effort toward communicating through social media efforts. Additionally, 86 percent believe self-promotion is their key to success and social media is the way to do it.
- Selling ancillary products and services (like insurance, travel gadgets and excursions) are seen by the industry as crucial to long-term success. With commission paid to agencies lower than ever, new sources of revenue are needed to help offset the short-fall.
- Owners and consultants alike need to focus on training and the development of travel counsellors to ensure long-term success. According to the survey,counsellors and owners agree that destination knowledge and service skills remain important while technology and new trends are critical for consultants to stay relevant to their clients.
The survey was fascinating and an online version of Canadian Travel Press is available to have a further read and dig deeper. What are your thoughts about the future of retail travel in Canada? Can it continue to evolve and stay relevant? Do you use an agent to book travel?