New technology and expertise can help cut down on brochure wastage, says Aito Specialist Agents chair Gemma Antrobus
Everything you read indicates that greening our businesses is more important than ever. But how do we do it when we still have clients who like poring over glossy brochures and receiving luxury travel packs?
At Haslemere Travel, we stopped stocking brochures 17 years ago. It was really radical – and slightly frightening – at the time, but we (and our customers) have adapted remarkably well to the change.
One of the few things that the pandemic has actually helped with is the dispatching of travel documents digitally. It may also have weaned quite a few tour operators off brochure production, although others are moving to undated brochures so they have a longer shelf life.
As well as the sustainability angle, brochures cost a lot to print – yet many are simply binned without delivering any revenue whatsoever.
I empathise with fellow travel agents who can’t quite wean themselves off using brochures as a sales crutch when they encounter a potential client who needs to be talked through a destination they’ve never visited.
Personally, I think the answer lies in becoming more like a consultant – and also in getting to know each of your clients better.
Tailor your offering
If you have colleagues in your office, rather than working solo, it is probably slightly easier to share knowledge and personal recommendations – but many of us are working pretty much solo at present, or from home, which poses a bigger challenge.
Don’t be afraid to arrange three-way calls or Zoom meetings between the client, the tour operator and yourself. This is a great way to showcase the fantastic relationships you have with your suppliers, and also to remain an integral part of the conversation.
For travel documents, mobile phone apps such as Vamoos can be helpful for tech-savvy clients, but higher-spending or slightly older clients might not be comfortable with apps and might prefer hard copies of their documents.
It’s best to check with each client personally what they would prefer in order to offer the level of service support they seek. Of course, there is also the potential problem of network availability (or not!) in their holiday destination, which might necessitate printing, or data roaming costs.
Create wow factor
Going back to brochures, however, my personal belief is that travel professionals who know their clients should be able to work without the need for brochures.
There are endless YouTube videos of destinations, and hotels in every destination will have their own promotional content. Videos – even still photographs presented as video – are hugely better than brochures at creating a wow factor, and they encourage the travel professional to interact with their client because they watch the video together.
It also helps them learn more about what that particular client likes, or not, which helps in securing the immediate sale and for recommendations in the future.
My belief is that video is the way forward, and I would urge all travel companies to provide video of their wares, to help us as travel agents to support them.
Video is more environmentally friendly and enjoys a much longer life than brochures – the initial investment will be recouped speedily.
Video is also a much more powerful sales tool than brochures. So all in all, it’s a win for the client, for the travel agent, for the tour operator and for the environment.