Calling all travel professionals: bring forth your knowledge, expertise and connections! Anyone can research global destinations and the multitude of supplier products on offer, but entrusting one’s precious vacation time, travel spend and dreams to tour operators, DMCs and travel agents, means investing in a professional who understands travel inside out.

Destination knowledge

Do they really know stuff other folks don’t? As members of the tourism industry, they’re privy to information that regular travellers, despite their best efforts, are unlikely to know.

 

Based on their own experiences or their colleagues’, travel professionals know why certain flight and self-drive routings work better than others, which accommodation is better located, what time of year is best for what the traveller wants to do, why cheaper isn’t necessarily better..

There are always lower prices to be found online if you have time to look but there are these pesky little things travel professionals automatically think about that most travellers miss: fare rules, rate exclusions, taxes, omitted transfers. Things that eventually add up to higher costs.

Traveller reviews are great but if a consultant knows what the client likes, doesn’t first-hand experience beat web reviews posted by strangers? Educationals, familiarisation trips, trade/road shows, even personal travel experiences, are all learning opportunities, shared among team members as part of product training. They befriend local service providers, record info like local dining options, hotel amenities, and in-destination value adds like specialist guides. Collectively, those hidden gems, exclusive access, unpublished backstories that travellers wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, lend authenticity to experiences.

 

I expected no surprises from the escorted coach tour I recently took with my mom; certainly nothing I couldn’t have arranged equally well. As much as I love mapping routes and doing my own research, I concede it would’ve been a poorer experience without our tour director’s encyclopaedic knowledge of North American history, insider jokes and secrets, and his relationships with locals. We just got the best possible perspective.

It was a fun learning experience with fabulous photo opps, which brought the somewhat staid brochure descriptions spectacularly to life. DMCs indisputably hold the key to in-depth destination knowledge, beyond just history and geography – as things happen and change, they’re the first to know and share news with trade partners.

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Trends in tourism and the trade

Tourism is in constant flux. Every year there’s a new range of must-see destinations guided by: pop culture; lifestyle trends; emerging markets; millennials exhibiting new tendencies; growth in alternative or niche interests; impact of overtourism; anniversaries or special events; destinations recovering from disaster. Anyone can read up on these but it’s the travel professional’s business to understand how supply and demand are affected.

Travel trade associations keep members in check and functioning professionally, boost competencies, knowledge and skills development.

The average Joe won’t know about the tourism studies revealing statistics and rising trends that help travel professionals develop new products and markets.

National tourism boards regularly inform the trade of inbound trends, whom to target for relevant experiences. For example, when Thailand’s tourism authority identified LGBT, premium and black, middle class group travel as growth targets, and shared this info, travel professionals could better service and match traveller personas.

Sometimes travel advice is required to avoid a destination for the type of experience desired; or to help clients understand why a friend’s solo adventure won’t suit a family with kids travelling to the same destination, different season.

Is it safe to go? I’d rather follow the advice of a trained, informed professional than lose out visiting a cool destination because of some hearsay. Average Joe surfing for holiday deals online doesn’t even skim the surface by comparison, which shows through the entire purchase to travel experience.

Of suppliers and tour products

The travel industry is a vast, connected network of shared information. Through the relationship between operator/wholesaler/agent and their preferred suppliers of accommodation, activities, restaurants and day tours, travellers can potentially score free upgrades, last minute deals, have savings passed onto them from bulk bookings, and other perks. Wholesalers provide travel professionals with the nitty gritty on their destinations, available/new products, even the most beneficial times to book. They visit their offices, train and update them on packages, special discounts, and promote preferred supplier products, forming relationships that ultimately benefit the traveller.

Good supplier relationships may allow Travel Agents access to better information about the suppliers’ products (than the customer can find), better access to product possibly at better prices..

ASATA

The travel professional will advocate to secure the best room, location, view, rate, or VIP treatment for their client. They know their products well: what to expect on which route; activities stitched together as value-added itinerary components; interesting ‘new’ experiences in popular destinations.. They’re able to craft personalised experiences that leave one-size-fits-all packages in the shade, because they listen to their clients and ask questions.

People often have distorted impressions of places and experiences – they need someone qualified to advise them honestly on a better-suited plan. Complex or expensive trips require finesse – a travel professional in charge gives the traveller peace of mind that arrangements are under control. Even a stubborn, independent traveller like me must admit having support during travel for crisis management is preferable to none. This human touch is an increasingly essential service element that travellers happily pay for.

Who knows travellers best

Travel professionals know there’s actually no average Joe: every traveller is special. People travel alone, on honeymoon, with extended family, kids, fur babies or service animals, for wellness, pilgrimage, sport, with special dietary requirements, disability, slow mobility, etc.

Travel professionals can combine expertise, destination and product knowledge, connections in the trade and organisational skills, to craft personalised experiences.

The time spent consulting and fact-finding with their client is as much about relationship-building as ensuring the experience is a perfect match. It’s the basis for repeat business – built on trust, rewarded with loyalty.

Small touches like requesting a longer bed or wheelchair assistance can leave a lasting impression. They can manage logistics and reduce pain points, the likes of which travellers worry about but dislike dealing with. Doing their best for a client equates competing effectively because the ROI is repeat and referral business.

Travel professionals are invested in their clients’ welfare and ensuring incident-free, pleasant experiences.

Hallmarks of a great travel professional

Organised Meticulously curate info and content to craft well-matched experiences

Curious Keen to learn and stay informed about people, places, events and tourism trends

Specialist Develop connections and expertise in tourism niches to create unique itineraries

Tech savvy Understand technology makes them more efficient and provide a better service

Communication Diplomatic and patient, with great people skills

Empathetic Actively listen and care about the client’s interests, needs, time and money

Passionate Travel is more than a job, it’s a passion they’ve dedicated themselves to

What and whom they know, and what they can do exist in an outwardly glamorous world that is truly a hive of organised activity. With direct access to extensive content, insider knowledge, special deals, problem-solving skills and booking expertise, they cut through the fragmented mess of incorrect, outdated info. Their purpose is to reduce stress and save their clients time – having someone reliable monitor the progress of reservations, manage changes and crises, and recommend appropriate alternatives, that’s value worth paying for. OP

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