5 ways to compete with OTAs

5 ways to compete with OTAs

5 ways to compete with OTAs

I’ll bet you’ve seen him on TV. That grey-haired guy jumping around extolling the virtues of booking your hotel (and more) online because the selection, convenience and value simply can’t be beat. Just one more reason for potential clients to say to you “Why would I need a travel agent when I can book online?”

Yes, I’ve seen him too and I can see why consumers think that way. So. How do we compete with the reality of that massive advertising spend and broad reach? Here’s how you can deal with that skeptical potential client – and address the issue on your website:

  1. Explain that you book more than hotel rooms or air tickets. Long gone are the days of the 1990s when consumers were loathe to type their credit card number into a website. The more basic the product, the easier it is to buy and sell online. But …
  2. Play the ‘human’ card. When it comes to something more complicated than booking a hotel for a couple of nights, the trip planning process can make clients anxious and confused. You are there to take that all away and replace it with seamless, painless travel arrangements which are also good value for money. You are a live human being, not a bot, and you are there to care for your customer before, during and after travel.
  3. Referrals, referrals, referrals. There is nothing like a recommendation from a real live human to build your reputation. If a client comes back from a hugely successful trip and has told you about it, make it easier to get that referral by asking if you can write it up for them and get their say-so to post it. And if there was a wrinkle that you were able to sort out, so much the better.
  4. Don’t forget to leverage your relationship with suppliers AND your more flexible payment options (people love that). Explain that your buying power is part of your host agency’s buying power and don’t be shy about mentioning awards, sales volumes (you can be a little vague here if you wish), FAMs, conferences and even personal exchanges you have had recently with a BDM. OTAs often require full payment upfront, whereas we travel advisors can be more flexible about the payment deadlines.
  5. Stay as connected as the OTAs are. Yes, you do need a system for monitoring your inbound emails and communications out of normal business hours. And when potential clients are in buying decision mode, always encourage a call or email from clients on your website. A great way to start and build a relationship.

The OTAs won’t go away. But there is also always room for the deft hand of a professional travel agent to bring value to the customer.

Lynda Sinclair, CTM, is the Senior Vice-President – Leisure at Vision Travel Solutions, which has an ever-expanding and vibrant program for independent agents. With over 30 years in the Canadian retail travel industry, Lynda says she “lives and breathes what goes on at the front line.” She can be reached at lynda.sinclair@visiontravel.ca.

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