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An agent’s survival guide for Black Friday: sales strategies and...

An agent’s survival guide for Black Friday: sales strategies and opportunities

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This is a feature story from the November 23rd, 2017 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.


TORONTO — Heading into high season for winter getaways, and with spring and summer vacations on the horizon, Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions are well-timed for the travel industry. But do Black Friday and Cyber Monday keep travel agents in the loop?

As the industry gears up for this year’s edition of Black Friday (Nov. 24) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 27) madness, a $16 billion phenomenon, we spoke to several suppliers including tour operators, hoteliers and cruise lines about their late November sales strategies, and how agents can best take advantage of all the deals out there – and minimize the chances of their clients booking the big discounts direct.

In the space of just a few years, consumer awareness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the Canadian marketplace has gone from non-existent, to “it’s a U.S. thing”, to bona fide bookings motivator.

And while Cyber Monday started out as the online bookend to the bricks-and-mortar retail frenzy known as Black Friday, most companies are now fully onboard both bandwagons, whether they’re storefronts or web-based.

Patrice Geske, Marketing Manager/Canada for the Globus family of brands including Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways, says the company ran a sale on a limited range of product to test the waters last year and was pleasantly surprised to see how good the uptake was. The company plans to expand its Black Friday and Cyber Monday product range this year with an even more meaningful offer.

Geske suggests that agents send a ‘teaser’ email to their client list with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that catch their eye. “Alert them to the fact that there will definitely be some tempting offers out there, but very time limited in nature,” says Geske.

The timing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is perfect for agents, adds Jeff Element, President, The Travel Corporation (TTC) Canada. “November is an ideal month to get clients thinking about booking their summer 2018 Europe trips, while there is more availability for departures compared to after the New Year, where space starts gets more limited,” says Element.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday is also “a massive sales opportunity for agents to surpass their 2017 sales target”, and earn some extra commission just in time for the holiday season, he adds.

Not surprisingly, the most popular trips with preferred summer departures dates are the first to fly off the shelves. Last year TTC found that offering a shorter Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotional offer was more effective, since clients were looking for deals specifically from Friday to Monday and were most inclined to make their travel decisions and book their vacations during the four-day window. This year, however, TTC is extending its offer. “We found that clients are shopping around more since there is an increasing amount of travel deals in the Canadian marketplace … so this year our Black Friday/Cyber Monday [offer] will be a few days longer to give clients every opportunity to finalize their vacation plans and book their holidays.”

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Both Contiki and Trafalgar had Black Friday promotions last year and received a significant number of bookings, with bookings up by double-digits, says Element.

Back when Black Friday was truly a one-day event, when bricks-and-mortar stores opened their doors in the wee hours of the morning to a stampede of shoppers intent on nabbing a $99 flatscreen TV, the spur-of-the-moment buying window was part of the fun.

That’s still true for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But now that retailers selling truly big-ticket items, like vacations, are getting in on the game, the buying window is slowly but surely getting longer.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts is now marketing ‘Cyber Week’ specials. “Last year we hosted a Mystery Deal that ran for an entire week. It exceeded all expectations and set us on an incredible track for solid bookings throughout 2017,” said Kelly Poling, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts.

Poling says Karisma is using the same week-long format this year, “knowing that consumers are excited by both the competitive price point and surprise and delight element.”

Whether it’s for a day or a week, not only can the ‘buy, buy, buy’ frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday put clients in the mood to book, it can also motivate clients to splurge on their travel plans.

Pamela Lassers, Director, Media Relations, for luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, says A&K’s Cyber Monday promotions have been very successful at encouraging aspirational travellers to book a trip not typically within their budget, just because the deals are so good. That works in A&K’s favour.

Says Lassers: “We typically sell out of the destinations featured. Last year the places that sold out first were Botswana, Egypt, Jordan and Russia.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are compelling promotions for travel advisors to forward to prospective clients interested in one of the featured destinations, Lassers adds. Sometimes, timing is everything. “They have time to think about it … and then the deadline entices them to make a commitment before they get wrapped up with preparations for Christmas and New Year’s.”

Do Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions attract new customers? Katie Marshall, spokesperson for Adventure Canada, says the sales both bring in new business, and reward returning passengers. “Our experience shows a 50/50 split,” she says. Adventure Canada started its Black Friday sale a few years ago, and last year’s sale was the best yet for bookings.

No matter what Adventure Canada is offering for the annual November blow-out, “we make sure to release the information to our agent network up to two weeks prior to Black Friday,” says Marshall. “We suggest to our agents to share this information on social media, storefronts, website, etc. over that period of time, in order to provide time for the consumer to mull over the investment.”

Thompson Seattle’s General Manager Amanda Parsons says agent bookings account for about 25% of the hotel’s business. For Parsons, taking part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday is about building guest loyalty: “We know that if they come once, our hope is that we will gain a fan for life. You can buy electronics and appliances on Black Friday / Cyber Monday. Why not add a really cool vacation to the mix?”

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Attracting new guests also figures into the equation for The Hollywood Roosevelt, says Director of Sales, Kendall Viola, another newcomer to the Black Friday / Cyber Monday phenomenon. “The biggest shopping day of the year provides a platform for our iconic hotel to showcase its amenities and packages to a large audience, who may or may not be familiar with the urban resort.”

Just how global Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become is evident from the November deals from The Peninsula Hotels, applicable not just at the company’s U.S. properties in New York, Chicago and Beverly Hills, but also its Paris hotel as well.

Cruise lines are in on the game too. The deals time well as a lead-in to the cruise industry’s Wave season specials in the new year. “Travel agents have a unique opportunity to leverage these Black Friday promotions to kick-start interest and finalize bookings as they close out the year,” says Joe Jiffo, Senior Vice President of Sales for MSC Cruises North America. MSC Cruises’ deals include discounts worth more than 50% off select sailings and the cruise line is looking to ramp up its presence in the North American market.

The days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the time for agents to gather all of the key details and begin promoting savings on their websites, e-blasts and social media, says Jiffo. “Travel agents today have the added benefit of social media to directly reach consumers to keep pace with B2C deals. Consumers looking to travel rely heavily on online platforms like social media for advice, behind-the-scenes insight and fast correspondence. Agents should continue to take advantage of this public, wide-reaching platform to be the source of news when it comes to deals so travellers are encouraged to get in touch directly to learn more.”

A list of all the travel industry’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals can be found here. The list will be updated daily leading up to Black Friday (Nov. 24) and through until Cyber Monday (Nov. 27).


This is a feature story from the November 23rd, 2017 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.

Kathryn Folliott

Kathryn Folliott

Managing Editor at Travelweek
Kathryn is Managing Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 1995. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Hong Kong, Jerusalem, the Swiss Alps and the Galapagos Islands among her favourite destinations.
Kathryn Folliott
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