Swimming Up and Down Stream.
Abacus International
Friday, 13th October 2006
Travel agents would have heard enough about increasing their value to customers and moving beyond ticketing and taking orders.

But before you, as a travel agent, decide on how to expand your range of services, let's consider broadening your range of customers.

Think about going beyond selling travel services within the traveller market segment. How do reach out to a broader base group of customers who can benefit from your services – for example, those who do not travel, but who may travel at a future date.

The idea is to extend one's business upstream as well as downstream, and not confine it to a very narrow segment. Learn from the supermarkets. In their early days, supermarkets, or grocers, only sold produce. They later evolved – swam upstream – to provide their customers more. Lifestyle amenities like toiletries, household appliances, started appearing on their shelves. Others went downstream and offered finished products like cooked foods. Instead of just catering to those who were going to the markets to buy fresh produce, they began catering to a broader base of people whom had other generic needs and wants.

These days, one may visit a supermarket to develop a roll of film, pick up pharmaceutical products, buy food for pets, and pick up a loaf of bread. So what can enterprising travel agents do?
  • Upstream marketing
    Going upstream, agents can begin with establishing "discovery" clubs about people and places. Tie up with a company that has a large database across all industries (credit card companies?) and invite them to join these discovery clubs. Entice them with incentives to do so and create a membership of people who will exert peer influence on each other to travel.

    Introduce them to new and exotic places that you are offering. Create different segment groups for them so they can form their own travel groups – golf, spa, cruise are some you can consider.

    Get them to participate in creative exercises, competitions during which they may win free travel – they may not pay for the first trip, but once you get them hooked, getting them to pay for the next trip will be easier. Remember, it is always more expensive to get in new customers, then to retain them. Put in the investment dollar to gain new customers, and business will flow to you much quicker and cheaper after that (provided the first experience was good).
  • Downstream marketing
    Swim downstream and think about customer retention.

    Travel agents can publish snippets of customer comments about what they enjoyed on their travels. Again, it is the idea of the club that will sustain this. Your customers could be your most effective marketing team.

    Good customers beget customers. Besides, everyone wants publicity and wants to tell a good story – especially travel ones – so why not benefit from that yourself? Online publishing is fairly inexpensive these days. If you already have a website, create a "members section" where your customers can go in and share photos and tales. Blogging (creating a web log or diary) is popular these days and technologies to instantly create blogs on your website can be had quite easily.

    So don't just swim in circles, start thinking about swimming upstream and downstream as well.
2006 Copyright @ Abacus International. All Rights Reserved.

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