Global 2016: Indie agents are an ‘untapped market’, delegates told

Selling holiday experiences through independent agents is an “untapped market”, leading supplier Attraction World told the Global Travel Group conference.

Sales and marketing director, Nick Hughes, told the consortium’s annual conference in Dubai this week that conversions through independents are less than 1%.

He said on average an independent partner may book just five to seven attractions with them a year, compared to an average Thomas Cook store that will sell up to 60.

Hughes said the firm was determined to support agents increase their sales and revenues in an area that he believes can make a significant difference for their clients.

Of his seven account managers, six are dedicated to the independent sector.

“It’s an untapped market,” said Hughes. “How many of your customers go away every year and do something on holiday they’ve not booked with you?”

Hughes warned major online players like TripAdvisor are eyeing the tours and activities sector as the last major part of the travel industry to transition online.

He said much of this business will be transacted in-destination on mobile, but that agents should get the message to customers that they can book upfront with them and get a better deal.

“Why do customers go to a travel agent? It’s about trust and expertise; you show your experience and destination knowledge. You are responsible.

“We all in this room have the ability to give our customers ideas. It all comes down to understanding that customer, understanding what emotionally drives them.

“We have the ability to connect with our customers emotionally. We should be the reason why that customer smiles. Create desire for something that people want to do.

“Customers know they can book flights and accommodation with you. But it’s about the experiences. Customers think all you do is the flight and hotel accommodation.”

Hughes urged agents to leave their comfort zone and be confident about trying to sell an additional and additional attraction ticket, and not just be satisfied with selling the core holiday.

“People think they can’t ask their customer for anymore. But that’s their choice to say yes or no. A lot of the experiences we have has added value. You have the ability to book it for them.“

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