The days of simply putting together a flight and accommodation must surely be coming to an end as the options for dynamic packaging grow ever larger.
Nowadays agents can easily book helicopter transfers from the airport, pre- and post-trip services such as airport parking, lounges and hotels, and an increasing range of on-holiday upgrades and experiences.
So why don’t more of them take the plunge?
There are still a number of barriers preventing many retailers from fully embracing dynamic packaging, from technology integration and general attitude to time and commercial pressures.
Surprisingly, during the trend last year for domestic holidays, the high street multiples were quicker to grasp the opportunities, with companies such as Superbreak seeing a boost in sales of packages put together with rail.
“The multiples did look at domestic very strongly last year,” says Superbreak sales and marketing director Ian Mounser. “And it was regionally based, with agents in Scotland and the north-east doing it really well.”
Attraction World sales and marketing director Tony Seaman also reports the multiples grasping the opportunities, and says they have been outselling independent agents by 15 to 1.
However, he believes that even the multiples tend to think only about obvious add-ons such as Florida theme park tickets while missing out on tours and excursion opportunities in places such as Egypt and Majorca.
Mounser believes Superbreak has made agents well aware of its rail, hotel and theatre options but feels they are not fully capitalising on other elements such as concerts, theme parks and attractions.
“It’s about a shopping-basket approach to every booking,” he says. “Some progress has been made but there is more to be done. This is stuff agents can pre-book and earn full commission on.”
Holiday Extras believes the economic climate has prompted agents to focus less on headcount and more on overall revenue.
“When agents last saw footfall decreasing after 9/11 it was all about raising awareness of the value of the sale and we’re starting to see that again now,” says head of sales David Stratton.
The company has recently added extra screens to the agents’ booking process to prompt them to think about airport lounges and accommodation.
Stratton also said that one company that partly integrated the Holiday Extras system with its own technology saw a 20% sales uplift.
Attraction World’s Seaman believes that as well as agents adopting the shopping basket mindset, the technology players have a role to play in terms of integrating the range of suppliers that offer tours, excursions and attraction tickets.
“There is only so much information agents can take in and we can’t do any more in terms of sales and marketing, so until the process is put in front of them through the technology, they will forget to ask,” he said.
Isango, the online travel company, believes agents are grappling with how much time they should spend with a customer or on the phone with how much incremental revenue it will earn them.
Product director Deepak Jha says: “The traditional agency network is very busy and not yet receptive, while the large companies with hundreds of stores are very keen but execution is not in sight.”
Jha says Isango is already working with online agents and believes it won’t be long before a major retailer fully grasps the potential of add-ons.
Attraction World’s Seaman adds: “For Florida, agents can earn average commission of £300 just on theme park tickets but there are still agents who tell customers to do it while they are out there. And that’s despite the savings of booking in advance.”
One company that has embraced dynamic packaging more fully is Travel Counsellors. The home-working group is integrating tours and experiences into its Phenix selling system in the next six months.
Managing director Steve Byrne says: “You can’t afford not to have these elements built in. Commercially we want them built in but also we want a one-stop shop so customers do not have a reason to go somewhere else.”
He adds that Travel Counsellors offers these sorts of add-ons because it enhances the customer experience and builds a relationship rather than being solely for the extra revenue.
Despite the seemingly slow rate of adoption, sales of tours and experiences are likely to come much more on agents’ radars.
Patrik Oqvist, Europe managing director of activities specialist Viator, says: “Add-ons are a good opportunity and a relatively straightforward upsell. It’s the last niche in travel to be developed but I can see it becoming a much bigger part of travel, especially now that air and hotel have become commodities. Consumers are planning in advance but finding that figuring out what to do can be challenging.”
Tips: Seven ways to boost your add-on sales
- Ask yourself if you have covered all the best options for your customer
- Don’t be afraid to offer something extra on the day or at a later stage, especially by phone or email
- Ask your technology supplier about integrating add-ons such as attraction tickets, tours and experiences, and highlight the potential savings of booking in advance to ustomers
- Talk to tours and experience providers such as Viator, Isango and DoSomethingDifferent about access to partnership schemes
- Stick a reminder on your computer screen with a checklist including transport to the airport, transfers, excursions, and hotel upgrades
- You don’t have to have sophisticated technology to offer add-ons – think about including lead-in prices on your overall holiday quote or ticket wallet
- Don’t dwell on the time it takes to sell add-ons – it’s about building a relationship with the customer