If you’re a travel agent, you know what specialized knowledge and skills you offer your clients. However, do you know what they hope to get from you when it comes to planning their trip?
Travelers may be turning back to travel agents instead of budget booking websites, but their expectations are still high for the service they’ll receive from travel professionals. Below are some of the most common expectations for travelers who work with travel agents:
This is the most obvious expectation of travelers working with travel agents, but also one of the most important. Individuals who book with a travel agent do so because they want someone who has accurate, up-to-date information on their destination. Travel agents’ clients don’t have the time to sort through thousands of search results about their trip and guess what information is correct.
Planning an overseas vacation or business trip can be a complex process for which many travelers don’t have time. Travelers want travel agents to do the legwork of their trip planning while they share their ideas of how the trip will go. Large group trips and vacations to new destinations require complex planning and hours of communicating with airlines, cruise lines and hotels. One of the main perks of working with a travel agent is the ability to hand over the reigns when travel planning gets difficult.
Travel emergencies are unpredictable and can wreak havoc on a vacation or business trip. Travelers who book their trip with a travel agent expect their agent to be available to help in the event an emergency does occur. This may mean locating lost luggage, scheduling a late night flight at the last minute or finding a doctor’s office in a foreign country. Travel agents are a lifeline to travelers when the unexpected strikes.
It’s widely expected that travel agents have unique connections and resources that can get their clients extra perks during their trip. This may mean an upgraded room, a reservation at that hard to book restaurant overseas, last-minute deal on their trip that isn’t available to the public or simply extra attention to the smallest of details during the trip such as free wifi on their flight.
While travelers know that there are costs that come along with booking travel through a travel agent, most still expect to save money. Travelers who work with travel agents assume their agent will find them the best group deals, monitor for price drops and get them specialty hotel or airline rates only available to travel professionals.
Those who travel without the aid of a travel agent sometimes fall victim to unpleasant surprises during their trips in the form of stand-by only tickets, canceled hotel reservations and more. However, one of the major draws of booking with a travel agent is avoiding these inconvenient and unexpected issues. Granted, some travel issues are unavoidable, but it’s assumed that a travel agent will have the foresight to prevent any problems that are preventable.
In many cases, people who come to a travel agent to get help planning their next trip don’t just need airline tickets and a hotel reservation. Travel agents have the valuable knowledge and experience required to plan a detailed schedule for a trip somewhere new. Clients may have a general idea of what they’d like to do during their trip, but they’ll leave it up to their travel agent to work out the details and timing.
While Facebook should be your top focus of the social media platforms when it comes to reaching current and potential clients, there is still much to be said for a strong Instagram presence. After all, people say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and Instagram is at its core a photo-sharing app. The travel industry has a unique opportunity to thrive on this social platform. In fact, “48% of Instagram users rely on Instagram to find a new travel destination” (source).
As an independent travel agent, Instagram is the perfect platform to show your knowledge and passion for travel. It gives you a free tool to promote special offers, follow travel industry trends, get in front of new clients, and see what current clients are posting about the trips you planned for them. So where and how do you get started? We’ve got an easy guide to Instagram best practices for independent travel agents:
Types of images to post
Because Instagram is a photo-based app, it’s crucial that the images you post are both high quality and inspiring to travelers. There are many ways you can find photos to post. Ask clients to share photos from their travels, or get permission to share Instagram posts they’ve previously posted (and be sure to give them credit). Share your own pictures of your past travels. Post pictures of your workspace. Find free images of travel destinations from sources such as Pixabay.com and Pexels.com.
Once you find an appropriate image to use, Instagram will let you crop and edit the photo. Instagram offers over 20 potential filters within the app for your images, and it can be tempting to over-filtering your photos or switch out the filter you use between each post. Try to pick one filter that you like the look of, adjust the level of the filter so your photo still looks natural and stick to that setting for all of your photos. This will give your Instagram feed a consistent look.
Caption topics to consider
While Instagram is a form of advertising for your independent travel agency, that doesn’t mean you should use marketing talk in your posts. People are looking for authentic content that they feel they can relate to, even if your captions. After you’ve picked your image, write a caption that is unique to both the photo and to you. Tell your story in a few sentences. Share memories from past trips you’ve been on. Talk about your favorite part of planning a trip for a client.
Hashtags to use
Instagram hashtags are the tool that lets your post get in front of new audiences and potential clients. There are millions out there to choose from, from extremely popular and commonly used tags too much more niche tags only a handful of people would search for. For your Instagram posts, you’ll want to utilize all 30 of the hashtags Instagram allows per post. Choose tags that match the interests of the clients you want to reach and that are relevant to the photo you are posting. As a basic rule of thumb, find 20 hashtags that are more general to your page and content and 10 hashtags specified to each post. Use some of the hashtags to get started:
Specific travel hashtags: #FamilyVacation, #DestinationWedding, #Honeymoon, #Adventure, #GroupTravel, #AllInclusive, #Cruising
Broad travel hashtags: #TravelTips, #TravelQuote, #InstaTravel, #InstaGo, #InstaPassport,
Day-specific hashtags: #MondayMotivation, #TravelTuesday, #WanderlustWednesday, #ThursdayThoughts, #FridayFun, #SaturdayVibes, #SundayFunday
Brand name hashtags: #RoyalCaribbean #OasisoftheSeas, #CarnivalCruise
Destination hashtags: #InstaNYC, #VisitParis, #LondonCity, #VeniceItaly
People to follow
When starting out your travel page, it’s perfectly okay for it to take a while to build up your follower base. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following people and brands before you get your own followers. Start out by following the big names in the travel industry, such as TripAdvisor, Passion Passport, Travel Channel, National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Airbnb, and National Geographic Travel. You can also follow local companies in your town, current clients, and other travel agent friends.
Engaging with other users
Don’t expect everyone to come to you. You must go to them first. Use the hashtags above to search for your ideal traveler and have genuine conversations with them. Don’t immediately advertise your service. Instead, talk with them about their favorite destinations, their travel goals, etc.
When to post
While the frequency of your posting will be largely dependent on your own schedule, aim for once every other day to start. If possible, one post per day is a happy balance between staying visible to your audience but avoiding annoying them. Finding the best time of the day to post will be trial and error. Try posting in the morning, afternoon and evening to see which posts get better responses.
What are you waiting for? Get your independent travel agency in front of the Instagram world. And while you’re there, don’t forget to follow us at OutsideAgentLink!
For a long time, the travel industry has focused the majority of its attention on reaching older demographics. We have assumed that those most likely to need the services of a travel agent are older individuals who have an established career that offers ample vacation time or are retired. However, recent studies show that millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, actually account for 16 percent of all American travelers and are the driving force behind growth in the travel industry. But how do we reach this demographic of younger travelers? Here are three tips for independent travel agents marketing to millennial clients:
Social media is one of the key influencers on travel interest. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, aren’t all outfit inspiration and animal videos. In fact, social media is the prime source for millennials seeking travel inspiration. Millennials are more likely to pick a travel destination or activity from something a peer posted online over an advertisement. How can travel agents use this to reach millennial clients? Be engaged on social media platforms. Regularly post pictures and interesting travel facts on Facebook and Instagram. Maintain a blog and share links to it on Twitter and Pinterest. Instead of looking at social media as a platform to make a sale, consider it a way to engage in dialogue and connect with potential millennial clients.
Think off the beaten path of traditional travel. Millennials are looking for unique and unfamiliar experiences when they travel. According to Expedia, 86 percent of millennials travel to experience new cultures. Most aren’t looking to stay in a big chain hotel and visit the most popular tourist attractions. Instead, they want to take a trip that lets them see a destination through the eyes of a local. What can travel agents do to offer this experience travel to millennials? Study lesser-known destinations and attractions. Offer to share, or hand over, the reigns when it comes to planning daily travel activities. Connect millennial travelers with a local tour guide once they arrive at their destination. Show these potential clients that you understand their travel needs and offer unique, trustworthy information that they wouldn’t find online.
Work with a different set of concerns and restrictions. Travel restrictions and concerns for millennials are often much different than they are for older generations. For example, while budget is still a key concern, length of travel is often a bigger concern than cost, since many millennials haven’t accumulated as much vacation time as a more seasoned professional who’s been with their company for years. Also, keep in mind that this demographic tends to book more last minute vacations and travel than older generations. How can travel agents cater to these concerns? Offer last minute deals and discounts that encourage spur of the moment decisions. Market more weekend trips that require less time off work. Be flexible and authentic and show millennials you understand their travel limitations and are able to work around them.
Once we reconsider how we reach new millennial clients, connecting with this younger generation of travelers can offer great success and build lifelong partnerships between travel agent and traveler.