As an independent travel agent, your two biggest challenges are gaining new clients and retaining their long term business.
Lots of travel agents are great at attracting new clients or delivering exceptional customer service, but to succeed in the travel industry, you need to be able to do both.
In this article, we’re going to explore the question that might be keeping you up at night: How to get clients as a travel agent — and how to keep them?
How to get clients as a travel agent – 4 key tips
Become a specialist travel agent
The travel industry is competitive and dominated by some massive brands. Booking.com and Expedia had a combined 80.5% market share in 2019, which doesn’t leave much room for smaller travel agents.
With this in mind, the best way a travel agent can stand out in 2021 is to provide a specialist service.
The biggest brands are able to offer a huge range of travel services, but their size makes it hard to provide bespoke customer service or perfect a niche offering. As a smaller travel agency, you can be more agile and develop a name for yourself in a specific area, whether that’s luxury holidays, unusual destinations or unique experiences.
Offer a referral programme
Lead generation can be tricky for smaller travel agencies competing with large brands with deep pockets. They can afford to spend a lot on paid media advertising while also dominating organic search results. This is why your previous clients are such an important channel.
Word of mouth referrals is already a reliable source of new leads for a travel agency. Happy clients will often tell their friends and family about a great travel agent experience organically, but a referral programme will convert even more of them into evangelists.
Consider being creative with how you market the referral programme, though. ‘Refer-a-friend’ programmes are so common in the travel industry that it’s easy for clients to become blind to them. You could brand it as an exclusive members’ ‘club’ and use it as a tool for building further loyalty by offering additional offers and discounts.
You should also encourage satisfied clients to leave reviews on places like Google My Business and Yelp, although you won’t be able to incentivise these without falling foul of the platforms’ terms and conditions.
Leverage social media
Travel is an incredibly visual activity, so if you’re not using social media as a part of your marketing campaigns, you’re wasting a great opportunity to showcase your services to relevant audiences.
Typically, very few happy clients will take the time to leave a good review compared to unhappy clients. While this might be true of reviews, social media doesn’t quite follow the same rule.
You’ve probably spent time scrolling through your social media timelines and seen picture after picture of your friends and family having fantastic experiences, wherever they are. If Facebook and Instagram is anything to go by, disappointing holidays are a thing of the past! That’s because people curate the best of their experiences for social platforms — they don’t want people to think they’re having anything other than an incredible time.
Your clients are creating great content for you, and you need to be in a position to take advantage of this. You should also be creating your own content. More and more consumers are using social media for researching trips, with over half changing their plans after doing so.
Start creating content
The travel industry buyer’s journey involves a long research phase, with potential new clients spending a long time looking into different destinations, experiences and travel agents.
To attract potential clients to your travel agency, you need to be able to answer the questions consumers are asking and provide the information they’re looking for. A blog is a great way to do this.
The content you create can be shared on your social media channels, but it also gives you the best chance of ranking organically for the things your target audience is searching for. Publishing regular fresh content is the best way to improve search engine optimisation, so start brainstorming content ideas based on what you know about your typical clients.
4 ways of keeping your new clients happy
Once you’ve started attracting more clients, you need to know how to keep them happy, as a healthy customer retention rate will ease the pressure on your lead generation and marketing campaigns.
Here are four ways you can keep your travel agency’s clients coming back every year.
Tailored special offers
Your clients don’t want to receive the same generic offers you’d send to a prospect you know nothing about. They want discounts for trips that interest them, excursions they’re excited about or for the time of year they want to travel.
Communication is key
Successful travel agents understand the importance of relationships, and communication is key to this.
Make sure you communicate every detail of a customer’s trip clearly and answer any of their questions promptly — ideally within 24 hours.
Collect and listen to customer feedback
To succeed as an independent travel agent, you need to be agile, and this includes responding quickly to customer feedback. You should also actively encourage clients to leave reviews and let you know about their experiences.
Send out surveys, monitor your brand mentions on social media and keep track of all your reviews on Google and other platforms.
Don’t just act on the feedback internally; respond directly to any reviews (positive or negative) to show you care about your clients’ experience. This is important for resolving any issues, but it will also show prospective new clients you deal with problems quickly.
Invest in a robust CRM built for travel agents
This is hard to pull off without a comprehensive picture of your clients. An intelligent customer relationship management (CRM) system built specifically for travel agents makes it simple.
A CRM creates a dynamic, single view of your clients across all channels, including all of the personal information, contact details, booking habits and interests you have on them. This makes tailoring your marketing messaging, maintaining communication and actioning customer feedback easy.