Back in the Eighties, you could not walk down a street without passing a bright-and-breezy High Street travel agency!
They were every would-be traveller’s first port of call, where families, couples and friends flipped through page upon page of travel brochures and spent hours discussing the right package holidays.
Since then the travel industry has undergone an enormous transformation, a revolution if you will. In fact, with the demise of many of the high street stores you’d be forgiven for thinking the age of the “Travel Advisor” was dead.
After all, who needs a travel brochure or indeed actual people when we’ve the internet and access to online giants such as Expedia and Booking.com? I mean really, faced with rapid-fire, razor-sharp, incredibly cost-effective results provided by technology, how could a single travel advisor, with their everyday human brain, possibly compete?
To top this off alongside the rise of these technological behemoths, a new wave of travel influencers and bloggers provide us with a stream of content offering us constant temptation to visit unique and exciting destinations – in a world that has become much easier to navigate (2018 delivered the first non-stop flights from London to Australia).
Despite these exponential changes, travel advisors endure. In fact, a recent ABTA Consumer Travel Trends survey found that travellers, overwhelmed by the myriad of choice offered by do-it-yourself internet deals, are seeking out “the knowledgeable safe hands of the personal travel advisor”.
STILL NOT CONVINCED?
Whether you are an owner or manager of an independent hotel or indeed an individual traveller yourself, if you need more convincing that travel advisors are in it for the long-haul, then here it is:
Travel advisors bring an in-depth engagement, knowledge and skill
Pre-internet, it might have been enough to expect a travel advisor to make generic travel recommendations, or simply process a flight or hotel booking on your behalf.
These days, you can expect a cultivated level of knowledge and skill that goes well beyond the pages of a dog-eared brochure. Particularly in affluent markets, travel advisors do far more than book trips. Many act as personal planners, knowledge-brokers, and subject matter experts for their clients, helping to craft experiences that go beyond the ordinary.
This is one of many reasons why travel advisors continue to thrive in a fast-moving, e-dominated industry. If their years of professional skill and knowledge existed on the internet, or could be easily gained from other travellers, then why wouldn’t you just book the trip yourself?
The best advisors are also incredibly well-networked in the industry, taking valuable time to establish global connections that benefit and enhance the services they provide. You only need look to affluent associations like Virtuoso and Signature Travel Network who provide advisors global support while offering affluent travellers the opportunity to find an advisor that matches their own unique style.
They take it one step further by assisting you to connect with a subject matter expert, yes “Luxury Disney Holidays” are a popular choice, just ask Staci Kimball of Glass Slipper Concierge!
Furthermore, as is the similar case in the digital banking transformation, although users leverage technology more and more, many still value the personalised engagement when dealing directly with another human especially for more complex or personal needs (e.g., booking a wedding, honeymoon or celebrating a special birthday).
Travel advisors offer a fully personalised service
Many travel advisors work closely with suppliers, spending time learning about their product, team, and the ideal clientele. This allows them to personally engage with the experience a supplier provides and then be better placed to offer what is most suited to their clients.
This, in turn, enables advisors to act as a knowledgeable advocate; bringing the right client, at the right time (and more often than not, at the right price!). Ultimately leading to a win for all involved.
As discerning affluent travellers increasingly reject bland generic experiences in favour of professionally tailored options that are unique and specific to them; the best travel advisors are ahead of the game, creating bespoke, knowledge-based itineraries, while offering concierge-style services that satisfy their clients individual tastes.
It wouldn’t necessarily be unusual, for example, for a travel advisor to introduce their clients to personally-selected tour guides, arrange spa treatments and theatre tickets, or even book dinner reservations at an exclusive local restaurant, making sure any specific dietary requirements are highlighted prior to arrival.
Travel advisors charge for their services
If this one comes as a surprise, ask yourself if the saying “you get what you pay for” is true.
In an industry saturated with cheap online deals and ‘free’ add-ons, it’s certainly possible to meet just about any travel objectives on a strict budget. But at what true cost?
While the travel industry was once famed for its commission-based approach, the skill-based, value-added consulting services it now provides has facilitated a successful shift into a professional, fee-based industry.
Clients, therefore, should always be prepared to pay for the bespoke services of a travel advisor. In line with the skill they offer, some advisors will levy planning fees for personalised advice or ‘extras’ such as dinner reservations, and many will charge travellers prior to working with them.
In return, as a traveller you can expect a professional, streamlined and stress-free travel experience that takes care of everything behind the scenes, so you can focus on your specific goals…whether that’s lazing on an undiscovered beach, dining at the hottest local restaurant.
As an hotel, you can expect a travel advisor who is committed to securing the best experience and ensuring the best standards of service for their client.
Travel advisors help you save time AND cost
While there are costs associated for both travellers and hotels when working with travel advisors, there are also crucial savings to be made, as a traveller in both time and money and as an hotel in ensuring your rooms are sold at the best price at the right time to the right client.
It almost goes without saying that a fully personalised itinerary, put together by an experienced travel advisor, will save you the time it would take to hunt down the perfect deals yourself (assuming, of course, that you would have access to them!)
Travel advisors will often have access to exclusive benefits, unique promotions as well as insider secrets and tips from long standing relationships that will not be advertised online. They will also often know just where additional value or indeed savings can be had or made on experiences such as fine dining or spa treatments.
But the benefits of a travel advisor aren’t just for the globetrotters amongst us. From the professional perspective of the independent hotel, working with travel advisors means working in partnership with an engaged audience who can and often do act as an extension of your sales team. Skilled travel advisors act as representatives for hotels that they strongly believe deliver what their clients want and need, going so far as to only recommend or indeed sell specific properties in key destinations.
Looking at this more closely, an experienced travel advisor will bring their years of direct industry experience to bear. They will partner seamlessly with your in-house team, often making recommendations that are of immediate as well as long term benefit.
Working with knowledgeable travel advisors can give your hotel a tangible edge over the competition – which can be crucial in such a fast-moving, increasingly competitive industry as travel. Internet deals, trends and quick-fixes will always come and go. But skill, knowledge and personalisation remain key to creating the best possible travel experiences, perhaps more now than ever before.
As that old saying goes, “people buy people”.
All of this is exactly why I truly believe that the “Travel Advisor” is most certainly here to stay.
@luxurylondonguy was founded from twenty years of global experience in the luxury hospitality industry. To find out more about the services we provide, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can also follow us on social media for regular industry insights and information.