Hotels and travel agencies have a long history of relationships. Travel agents act as the link between a service provider (airline, hotel, transportation, and tour companies). Some travel agencies are small family-owned businesses, while others are part of a conglomerate.
Each travel agent has a unique DNA. Travel Agent-A may specialize in adventure travel, while Travel Agent-B is an expert in island destinations. Some agents may have better suppliers for European countries, while Travel Agent-D focuses on Asian countries. Their knowledge makes it comforting for travellers to talk to them face-to-face, especially when asking for advice about a new destination.
As hoteliers in this age of modern technology, the question some asked is: “Will travel agents remain relevant to our business in the future?” The answer is a resounding, YES!
The Importance of Travel Agents to Independent Luxury Hotels:
- The travel agent has the following of faithful clients who have been booking personal and family vacations with them over the years. It must be because this TA knows all the demands of the clients from experience. If a client is happy with the service and facilities of the hotel booked for them, they put their utmost trust to this agent whom they already consider as a close friend who knows their quirks.
As a luxury hotel Sales and Marketing Director, you will want to befriend this TA and accommodate his clients’ whims because you know this is not a one-shot deal, and many more of the same affluent clients will follow.
- When treated as a VIP partner, the boutique agent becomes your hotel’s cost-efficient advertisement for your property on a global scale. Once the company includes your hotel in their brochure (traditional or electronic), this becomes a promotional material circulated to their worldwide clients.
- Since their clients are not the ordinary kind, the VIP agents will likely upsell your rooms to a higher category – a suite or an ocean villa. Because of this, hotels enjoy a higher Average Daily Rate (ADR).
- Since the hotel has a strong bond with their agent, they can encourage these partners to create packages for their clients, including a spa treatment, a 5-course meal at the specialty restaurant, or a city tour. It is an additional income for the hotel’s other departments.
- Hoteliers may ask help from their partner agents to improve their room forecast on slow months. Because the boutique agent has clients from different parts of the world, each nationality has a distinct seasonality. The hotel sales and marketing director can work out a scheme to give the agents exclusive deals on lean months to pull in his clients to stay. It is a win-win situation.
A good hotel sales director should know that it is wise to keep several market segments alive and kicking. We agree that each market should be pampered and nurtured to forge a strong business relationship. But no matter how tempting it is to focus on just direct bookings or online channels, the traditional market of travel agents should always have a place in every hotel’s market segmentation.
Willy Hobal / www.willyhobal.com