“With consumers becoming more and more travel savvy, demand for travel has significantly increased in tandem. NATAS is also constantly in the process of exploring new business opportunities with our members so as to cater to this demand.” boasts Robert Khoo, ex-CEO of NATAS circa 2010. Mr. Khoo’s statement, although still true and arguably stronger today, the viability of NATAS as a marketing channel is becoming questionable as consumers are using online sources to find their next trip. Since 2011 the total number of visits to the NATAS Travel Fair has been decreasing and disappointing many travel agencies.
NATAS’ annual February Travel Fair, has seen 15% drop in visits since 2012. In fact, February numbers indicate that the importance of the fair is starting wane for consumers who are starting to move to other sources of packages.
The most recent NATAS fair organized in August 2013 drew 62,744 visitors, a drop of nearly 5 per cent from the 65,822 in the previous year. Bookings slipped more than 9% to an estimated $98 million, from the previous year’s $108 million. Yet, NATAS is still very positive and actively promoting its “NATAS Accreditation” framework.
In order to take advantage of the once vibrant foot traffic that NATAS promised, many travel agencies would rely solely on the NATAS Travel Fair to get their deals to the public. However, the over reliance on NATAS Travel Fair channel to get these sales has pigeonholed many travel agencies’ business expansion as consumers are moving quickly to online sources to make their travel purchases.
Scornful quotes started to appear to doubt NATAS’ long term value. Here is one, quoted from an online blogger.
“Actually I do not need the aforementioned statistics to tell me that the Natas Travel Fair Sales are not good. Just from the name of this year’s travel sales alone “I still Love Natas”, I think the name seems to suggest a lack in confidence on the part of the organizers which may translate into similar sentiments among the customers of the fair.”
We all have problems every day in our lives. And the key is to prioritize and solve them. Let me pick 3 high priority problems that are endangering the life of Travel Agency and the remedy to solve them. These problems, of course, are all related to the online market and they can all be solved.
1. Acquiring new online customers
How do you find and target your potential online customers? The online world is quite a mess. But there are a few sources that could help you to filter your online audience so that you could target acquiring them. One way is to scan through some foreign travel forums and identify if they meet your customer demographics. Or you could spend a five-figure amount to hire a search-engine-optimisation-expert to improve your search ranking while waiting anxiously for sales. You may also be acquiring potential customers through your online social channel (Facebook, Twitter). But to cover the fundamentals, travel agencies should also consider online package listing website that could help travel agencies to boost their potential online sales. One of the online classified package listing website would be Flocations.com. Flocations help travel agency to get rid of dumb traffic that are just “click for fun” from Google or anywhere else, and send them to you as a potential customer. They are the ones that interested in your travel package offering. More importantly is, your potential customer will spend most of their time on your website once you acquired them. This is building your brand awareness.
2. No sales coming from my website
Is it normal after you set up a website and get no sales from there? Definitely not! Else, why you spend your few thousands dollars setting up the website? Many travel agencies tend to rely their online sales on flash deal site channels like Groupon or Deal.com.sg . This, in fact, will only make flash deal sites to always have upper hand over you. And it does not make your website worthwhile for that thousands of dollars spending. There are many other channels out there that could help to increase your potential sales, and Flocations is proud to be one of those channels unique enough to promote your website, travel package, deals and promotions.
3. Online advertising is useless
If this statement is true, all the online advertising will be dead. I guess that’s why become your worry, “Why am I spending thousands of dollars every month but does not seem to see any effect?”. Firstly, if you think about how many ads you are seeing everyday, you will understand why online ads should be a long term strategy for your business with consistent long term investment. This is to build the brand awareness for your travel agency. Second question to ask is, what is your advertisement purpose, and are you measuring it well? Even final goal of setting up ads is to get sales, there are broader purpose and bigger vision than that. And if you are not measuring well, you could not conclude it’s useless. To optimise for online advertising to get meaningful online users, we are here to solve the “How”
for travel agencies.
For starters, travel agencies should set up a website analytics system. This is to help travel agency to track your website performance and conversion. The tool we use is Google Analytics. I’m happy to set it up FREE
for you without any terms and conditions. Just email me your enquiry at [email protected]
Is any of the flash sales sites like Groupon becomes your main revenue source?
Travel agency business might be endangered when their business model started to build upon flash sales sites. Besides ruining your brand awareness in the long terms, following are the deeper problems that travel agency might not be highly aware of.
- Travel agency might face cashflow problem
Typically, travel agency (client) negotiates with Groupon (or other flash sales sites) on contractual terms to pay the travel agency (client) within certain guaranteed short period of time after a deal had been redeemed with the travel agency (client). But, sometimes flash sales site (Groupon) might delay the payment for a long period of time. And this delay would cause cashflow problems for the travel agency (client). This is not a new case, we saw this happened earlier in the year when Groupon faced a S$290,000 lawsuit filed by Villas International. If you were not the similar victim, be prepared.
- Travel agency does not truly own the customers
Most of the time, customers generated to Groupon’s client (travel agency) are Groupon’s loyal customers. In other words, they are cheap deals loyalists. They might choose other travel agency’s deal over you some day, when you weren’t offering any cheap deals. And to secure this customer, travel agency needs to line up a series of cheap deals to always win them back. This, in the long run ruins profit margin for travel agency and of course eroding the business in the long run.
- Travel agency have low bargaining power
We all know Groupon or other similar local flash sales sites might have larger customer database than travel agency. And being popular and offering guaranteed sales service, Groupon has better bargaining power in choosing which travel agency (client) to be featured on the platform. The exclusivity offer with Groupon hurts travel agency as travel agency needs to slash a big discount and only can market through Groupon channel. Other flash sales sites work in similar model.
Therefore, to acquire more customers in a safer way is to redefine the unique proposition of your travel agency again, and start market through offline and online channels. Online branding and marketing to generate potential sales is not a new thing today. Online advertising channels like Facebook, Google ads offers very comprehensive coverage to acquire new customers. But to be professional takes time, which is why many online advertising agencies are out there to help. But to cover the fundamentals and start with the lowest marketing cost, we believe online classified listing websites would be a very viable options for travel agency. Let us know if you interested to know more, this link here basically covers the basic.