In my conversations with tour operators in India, I often find them recalling the good old days of the pre-internet boom. They talk about how business was much easier then – with fewer competitors and a far clearer value proposition. Additionally, the lack of options to compare prices of individual components – made the overall margins attractive. Travel remained a luxury for a few, who had little to no option but go to a travel agent.

All this changed with the advent of the internet and the explosion of online travel start-ups. Here’s what changed?

– Internet start-ups flushed with funds enabled customers to book individual components. Thereby, creating more transparency in pricing.

– Push towards digital banking and the influx of fintech start-ups, brought down the risk perception associated with digital payments.

– Google made it easy to research. Thus, making planning and discovery easier.

Interestingly, while it may seem as though people are starting to favour online over offline travel – the numbers tell a different story…

Domestic leisure travel market stands at approximately 30 Billion USD, while flights and only hotel bookings are largely controlled by the OTAs. The holiday package market which comprises 30 per cent of the overall share is controlled by the offline travel agents (99+ per cent). The share of holidays in the overall market is expected to grow to 35 per cent by 2025 and the overall market size is expected to reach 55 billion by then. Moreover, the outbound market (42 Billion USD by 2024) is majorly holidays and controlled by the offline travel market…

Travel Agencies in India need to co-adapt in order to keep up with the dynamic environment. For those looking for a plan – here are a few ways you can reclaim your business:

–    Understand the problem you are solving for your customer – convenience, destination knowledge and customization.

–    Play to your strength and build your expertise around that. Customers will compare rates and focusing on a few areas will help you get the best rates from your suppliers/vendors and, thereby, remain competitive.

–    Effectively use digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and so forth to build your virtual presence.

–    Stop viewing your customers as something to close and move on. But view them as a relationship you invest in and that will reward you in the times to come. Suggestion: Work out a strong loyalty program

–    Implement good travel software like Travelexic for lead management, tracking the leads, and maintaining a response time of 24 hours.

–    Standardize formats (quotation and service voucher etc) and communication. This helps to appear more professional and adds to the overall value proposition.

–    Using a post-booking itinerary APP such as Travelexic, will let you go that extra mile by offering your customers curated content on their destination and shine with your proposition.

–    Be consistent in your service standard and encourage reviews and sharing on social media.

Reinventing YOUR approach to business is the key to remaining relevant. Travellers still look for the personalized touch in the form of travel apps and are even willing to pay a premium for the assurance of a safety net. But tour operators need to adopt travel CRM that help them better manage their business, create an experience for the traveller, and retain customers.

It’s all a matter of giving travellers a reason. #FINDYOURADVANTAGE

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