Travel agents are increasingly competing against new industry entrants that claim an expertise they don't really have.
That's partly because, as Mike Marchev, an industry trainer and consultant explained during a recent webinar for The Travel Institute, "It's easy to get into the travel industry."
"You don't have to have a degree," he said. "So, there are a lot of people who get in and just aren't serious. There are a lot of people who don't get the message that it requires constant work. You don't take a two-day supplier course and call yourself an expert."
Marchev said the best way for agents to stand above the competition is by becoming true experts and promoting themselves as such.
During the webinar, he urged agents to consider questions potential clients will ask themselves to determine an agent's credibility such as "Can I trust this person?" "Do they know what they are talking about?" "Do they care about me?'"
Marchev said agents need a "meaningful communication vehicle" that differentiates them from the competition, such as a blog post, newsletter or article, and to be sure the content is solid travel information and not "fluffy" or focused just on price.
"Make it more interesting and educational," he said, adding that as agents learn more they will become more confident and attractive to clients. "Information works because people like to do business with people who know what they are talking about."
One method Marchev recommends agents use to display their expertise is hosting seminars about travel-related programs, either on their own or with suppliers or other guests. Online services such as teleconferencecall.com give agents the ability to conduct such programs and then archive them on the agency's website for clients to listen to later.
An email blast to an agency's database is the best way to invite people to the seminar.
"You can say next Tuesday night I will interview a client who just got home from the Amalfi coast and we're going to talk about what to do there and what not to do," Marchev said. "People who are interested in Italy will get on the line. What if just two people are on the line? No problem. It will be in your archives for future reference."
Marchev is scheduled to conduct travel sales and marketing training at his annual Seminar at Sea in January.