Travel Agents & Tour Operators
Benefits of Booking Tours
The relationship between travel agents and tour companies is continually evolving. In the past, tour operators relied almost exclusively on travel agents to sell their tours. In recent years, with changing technology and evolving business strategies, tour operators are now diversifying how they sell trips. Travel agents must now compete with internet websites and other venues to maintain clients. Many travelers are also looking for a more unique or specialized travel experience. Tour operators are diversifying their options to cater to this type of traveler. Agents must stay educated and informed so that they can sell these ever changing types of trips.
The benefits of booking tours remain high, however. Group travel remains a highly profitable component of the travel agent business, and tours are the most straightforward and obvious way to accommodate these groups. Commission rates are higher for group travel, and the profit margin for the level of work involved remains high.
Focusing your business on tours also allows you to easily specialize in one area. You can focus on specific geographies, such as Italy, Brazil, or China. Alternatively you can specialize in specific types of trips such as African Safaris or Scuba Diving vacations. Working with tour operators will help you easily establish yourself as an expert on one area of travel.
Tour operators also offer a unique relationship opportunity for travel agents. If you cultivate a personal relationship with several companies, you can begin to customize trips for your clients. These clients will be impressed with the flexibility you offer them. This will appeal to a broader audience that is looking for more than a simple, mass produced tour.
Types of Tours
Many travelers prefer tours to independent travel, particularly when going to international destinations where the language, currency, and transportation systems can be challenging. Travelers looking to book a tour often refer to travel agents for guidance. As a travel agent, you should be able to answer their questions regarding destination preference, tour types, group sizes, and travel styles. Every tour company is different and each company caters to its own niche market. As a travel agent it is important to make sure your clients end up on a trip that fits their needs.
When discussing a trip with a client it is important to ask them what they hope to get out of the experience. Some people are looking for more flexibility and freedom during their tours, while others prefer the details to be prearranged and hassle free. There are many different tours that specialize in unique aspects of a culture. As a travel agent it is important to know about niche tours, such as those that focus on history, food, or music. These specialty tours continue to grow in popularity and will give your clients a more in depth look at a specific part of a culture. These tours also feel more personalized and special, which your client will greatly appreciate.
Group size is another important factor when choosing a specific tour. Smaller tours are more personalized, but often more expensive. It's important to weigh these two priorities with each client and make sure your focus is on what's most important to them.
Also make sure you consider age groups when choosing a tour. Some companies, like Contiki, focus on a younger crowd. These tours are more oriented toward socializing and partying. Younger clients may prefer this option, while your more mature clients may be more interested in history or shopping. Activity level is important as well, particularly when you are working with an older crowd. Older travelers may prefer trips that do not involve heavy walking. They also may be looking for options where luggage is handled for them.
Choosing an Expertise
As a travel agent you bill yourself as an expert. The world is a large place, so in order to offer your clients all that they expect from you it is best to choose an area of expertise. Most travel agents pick a specific geographic area as their expertise. When choosing a geographic area, consider where you live locally. Look at other travel agencies nearby to consider what your competition is doing. It's best to fill a niche that is not already being filled within your community. If there are several Europe focused travel agencies nearby then you are better off focusing on a different region. Those travel agencies likely have a well established reputation and clientele that you will have trouble competing with. Also consider a region or country that you have a specific interest in. If you have spent a significant amount of time in one area then that would be a natural fit for you. Travel demand is also important so look at travel trends in recent years. If there is a country that is growing in popularity, then it may be helpful to specialize in that region. Also consider political stability in the region, as this can have a dramatic impact of future travel and your business.
Once you've developed a specific expertise, you can begin marketing yourself. You want to become active in your community and seek out groups that may be traveling to that region in the near future. Schools, churches and businesses are popular sources of group travel. By joining the PTA or actively participating in church activities you'll quickly become a familiar face that people feel they can trust. Also consider offering referral incentives. Provide fun freebies to those clients who refer you to their friends. As your reputation grows, so will your clientele.