How to Compete with Online Travel Agencies: The Ultimate Guide

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It’s no secret that traditional travel agencies are struggling to keep up with the online travel providers. The proliferation of technology based travel options has initiated drastic changes in the in travel industry. Recent trends have shown that online travel agencies are surpassing traditional ones in acquiring the casual shopper and increasingly the business traveler. Digital marketing has given these outlets the ability reach massive audiences, to track and gauge media analytics, which allows them to target their customers with offers that are tailored to their preferences and travel habits. If your travel agency follows a traditional business model and wants to compete in the digital age, you’re going to need to consider some digital trends. That’s why we’ve made this handy list of suggestions to kickstart your transition into the new-age.

 

Discover your Demographic

These days, it is very seldom that people communicate face-to-face for their travel inquiries. Technological advancements in recent years has brought on the realization that people can easily improve efficiency in their lives by having access to information with a tap of their finger. Along with new technology comes new demographics, both young and old. Hence your company must take into account who your target audience is before you start marketing yourself. Choosing the right creative approach for each specific community is key in developing a marketing campaign. It’s no surprise that technology is popular among the younger generation, but that’s not to say that there are not many tech-savvy baby-boomers out there. For example, older folks generally prefer a nice all-inclusive cruise into exotic island countries for a relaxing getaway. On the contrary, younger people are more likely go on an adventurous trip in an unyielding attempt to experience what life has to offer. Therefore, if you’re catering towards the younger clientele, advertising a relaxing cruise vacation package would not be in your best interest.

 

Target Consumer Insights

Understanding your target audience, their interests, beliefs, values and behaviours is critical in effectively selling your service and determining a sense of ‘brand’ for your company. In terms of your competitors, you need to bring something special to the table and position yourself according to that ‘brand’. Successful brands invest in market research to help better understand consumer insights, and use the data to tailor their marketing plan. Many companies outsource these types of services in the interest of time, but there are easier ways out there. So how do you find consumer insights?

  • Trend Reporting: You can find many of these online, i.e. Cassandra Report, TrendHunter, WARC, etc.
  • Focus Groups: Moderated, small group conversations that help you understand real people’s insights.
  • Surveys: This gives you the opportunity to ask broad, specific, open-ended or close-ended questions about your industry. You can conduct an online survey easily using a tool like Survey Monkey.
  • Customer Feedback: Do not underestimate the power of genuine customer feedback. This usually comes in during your regular business interactions with them. You can gain from this if you inculcate a culture and a process within your team, to record customer feedback as soon as it pours in, and using all available channels (phone call, email, website, post-travel feedback questionnaire, customer satisfaction survey, etc).
  • Arena Research: Online focus groups of already existing panels.
  • Insider Dashboards: Insight/Emotional Connector dashboards are used to generate reactions to experiences/products based on algorithms (i.e. Hotspex)
  • Partner Data: Media outlets will have their own data based on target audiences that you can have access to.
  • Social Media Data: Gather insights and impressions from your social media community on various platforms. Utilizing social media is an excellent strategy for tapping into valuable insights.
    • Impressions: Impressions are the number of views your post/ad received.
    • Engagements: Engagements are the number of clicks, comments, shares, or likes your post/ad received.

 

Your Website – standing out from the clutter

A nicely designed website cannot ever be over-emphasized. Don’t get a college kid to design your website to save money (unless of course they have proven credentials). Make sure your unique value proposition is stated prominently, the services you provide are easily discoverable and any special offers or current promotions are instantly recognised on your website. Remember, creating a website is not a one-time affair. You have to ensure it is continuously updated and refreshed, just as you would constantly upgrade your home or office.

 compete with travel agents

Content Marketing

Now that you’ve successfully established what your travel agency has to offer and how to position yourself in relationship to your digital competitors, you can focus on developing a strong presence online. The key to getting traffic on your website is through quality content. The content on your page should not be too short or too text heavy; 500 words is a reasonable starting point- per page. As soon as it gets too complicated, people lose interest and click away. That’s what you DON’T want. So the idea here is to create meaningful, engaging content that your clients genuinely want to read. Part of this process is by having smart titles and headlines, and utilizing keywords with respect to the travel industry. This is as easy as going on your competitors sites and stealing theirs! There are also useful resources for finding keywords on the web.

 

Social Media

This is where your social media research and consumer insight skills come into play. Every network serves a different purpose and is subjective to different audiences. Thus, each social media platform should be treated differently. When developing your content for different platforms, you must consider the type of materials that are shared and how to construct it for your brand, in addition to what type of audience you’re targeting. For example, with a network like Facebook, you’re able to create videos longer than 59 seconds such that you can elaborate your message and get into details. There is no limit for the amount of hashtags on facebook and content is usually unedited, lengthy, and raw to communicate a wholesome message. Many PSA’s are shared on this platform and the users are generally older and more mature than those who use, say, Instagram. However, with Facebook, you’re unable to reach as large of an audience as you would be with, say, Google ads. Twitter, as a platform, generally reaches a focused crowd because hashtags are more widely searched. A key factor in developing effective hashtags so that your content gets shared is determining what tags are popular within your industry. This can be simply done by searching though your competitors profiles and stealing theirs, or by using specific services to determine what words are most popularly used as hashtags in your field

Hashtagging for specific days of the week is also very strategic, such as #MotivationMonday or #TipTuesday; these kinds of hashtags are fun and get attention while simultaneously building a consistent schedule for your posts. Keeping up with posting content on a regular basis is also crucial in building and maintaining a following. Instagram is a highly visual platform in which people spend the least amount of time interacting with content as opposed to Twitter and Facebook. This means the content you create for Instagram must be straight to the point and attention-catching. Instagram, being a visual community, does not have as much text or information as you would put into your Facebook posts. It’s also subjective to a very different demographic. Being a service that is increasingly used by younger crowds with shorter attention spans and more specific interests, it must be very visual. Innovation is key.

 

Go Mobile

In order for your platform to survive in this mobile age, you must make your website “responsive” through all devices. This means your site would benefit from having a mobile version that is easy and user-friendly. A very critical factor is keeping traffic on your website is by having a platform that is easily navigable. This part can be tricky because your website can be amazing on a desktop, but yet experience serious glitches on a smartphone or iPAD due to coding and design issues. These kinds of glitches must be tested and tried before they go live, to avoid losing potential clients. Investing in a good service company to help you develop a responsive website could be very useful. Most companies outsource these services from various countries worldwide, as global labour has proven to be a more strategic and cost-efficient option.

You can easily pay your international website developer using a fast and cost effective payment service like REMITR. Your overseas agency could help in creative design, website development, content creation and more. Maintaining a positive relationship with international companies can be tricky if you don’t have an efficient money-transfer provider to ensure that your partners get their payments on time. Many of these services expect to be paid timely, in order for them to perform efficiently.

 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is in important factor in engaging with your audience. Telemarketing is outdated, and most people get annoyed when you call their personal phone. However, when you email your clients, you are not interrupting them or forcing them to pick up a phone call. You are simply presenting them with an offer, and they can choose whether or not they want to capitalize on it or not. This is a much friendlier way of interacting with your clients and marketing your content without being invasive. Most often, they appreciate your email and will look into what you are offering. Mind you, the content in the email must be creative and subjective towards your specific client. Remember that you must at all times be  compliant with anti-spam laws that are enforced in Canada. CASL, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation has extensive guidelines about whom and what you can send as marketing communications.

 

Competing with OTAs while operating your travel business

Above all, if you have to effectively compete with a large online agency, you must possess not just the customer and their attention, but also the means to service their business. Your tie ups with hotel aggregators, travel and tour companies worldwide, and experience providers makes it possible for you to offer all services to your cherished customers under one roof. The last thing you’d want is to promise them an experience which later turns sour. For this, you are already conducting your own due diligence on the quality and reliability of your partners in other countries. But what about the reliability of your payments? You do not want to be liable to them or to your customers for delayed payments to your travel partners. Above all, you want to ensure you are able to pay them at a reasonable cost without getting affected by high bank fees and obscure exchange rates. This is where REMITR can help. Our award-winning and time-tested online remittance service helps you pay your travel partners across the globe for fees as low as $5. And when you pay them in their local currency, your savings in $$ can add up to a significant sum of money.