How to be an expert in travel product knowledge
When it comes to the skills & services of their travel agent, customers chose destination & product knowledge the most! Price came way down among their choices.
In a survey titled “Agents Make a Difference” conducted 2 years ago by Ensemble Travel Group, product knowledge topped at 65 percent followed by destination knowledge at 53 percent.
Surprisingly, price was rated at 11 percent, much down in the list. In other words, the agent’s product and destination knowledge was very important for their customers. The others on the list which scored above price were ability to help in emergency situation (30%), the ability to secure special offers, amenities or upgrades (26%) and the time savings that they managed (22%).
A travel agent thrives on the value they provide more than just facilitating bookings. This is more relevant when a traveller can be in different situations due to –
- An overwhelming range of travel products to choose from
- An overload of information on the internet
- A demand for more “Selfie-venues” combined with competition for bragging rights.
- Travel product advertising across all media – now you need someone to interpret the finely printed terms and conditions of those cruises and tours.
- Post covid19 scenario – which are the safe places to travel to, what are the latest travel advisories, how to be equipped and what to carry when traveling.
Travel agents need to adapt to the times and understand the needs of travelers. They must be creatively resourceful, manage their time and maximise their relationship with their product suppliers. They need to have a plan on how to gather and store the huge amount of product knowledge, which is their bread and butter. Here is how you can be an expert in travel product knowledge.
1. Define your products
In a recent conversation with a travel agency owner, I enquired about some of their key selling products pre-Covid19. “Packages”, that was the single word answer given whereas I was expecting something more specific.
As a travel agent you may feel that you are supposed to sell every travel product, but then let us put that on paper. Firstly, define all the products that you sell. Next, you will have to map how they relate to each other. For example – if you are selling a honeymoon package, write down all products that your need to put up that package
- Destination options
- Transportation options
- Suppliers in the destination
- Hotels / resorts in the destination
- Specific experiences for honeymooners
- Additional activities
- Visa & other formalities
- Emergency contacts, insurance
I recommend using “mind-mapping” for this exercise and involve your team in it. Once you do this process for your products, you should be able to see what makes each product different from the others and therein is your expertise as a travel agent.
After you define your products, you will have a list of products and suppliers under each of them. So organise these into product / supplier groups in terms of similarity. Here, you can decide on what kind of groups you would like to create. After the groups are created, it is now easy to collect and organise the information on these products and suppliers.
3. Know your suppliers
The products and suppliers that you work with are partners who provide you with necessary information. They assist in customising experiences for your clients and offer opportunities to enhance your skills and revenue. You can get this support from most of your preferred suppliers, but all your suppliers whether big or small, contribute to your business success.
Be consistent in your relationships with your suppliers, know their strengths and understand how you can use them to enhance your own services. Your suppliers contact details must be always close to you. In addition, it will be good to implement some supplier relationship management techniques to make the best out of your supplier partnerships.
Currently when international travel is at a standstill for the past couple of months and there have been zero queries related to travel, you will feel out of touch with most of your products. Furthermore, in the absence of normal daily operations, there is a possibility that knowledge that is not in use may tend to be forgotten.
One effective way to practice your product knowledge is to role-play with another travel colleague or even with a friend or family member. You can pretend that the other person is a client who wants to visit Goldcoast. Instruct the person to ask a lot of questions as if they are really going on this trip and be picky about the details. This technique is usually used during training of freshers in frontline sales, but it can really help in refreshing your destination knowledge and customer handling skills. Another way to keep engaged is to devote some time to watch travel product videos online on sites like ITJ e-Learning.
5. Use existing resources from suppliers & partners
Many destinations conduct online travel expert or destination specialist training programmes that are open for travel professionals. On successful completion of these training, they are offered some perks in the form of certificates, opportunities for fam trips, incentives, referrals and more. Some destinations and travel suppliers conduct live product trainings through webinar which is useful in keeping updated with development at the product side. Suppliers have product knowledge content in the form of presentations and videos which they usually share with their partners during their sales visits or via email updates.
6. Keep knowledge within easy access
Since you have a range of products or destinations to sell, it is virtually impossible to remember information on each of these products or destinations. Keep all the information that is collected or received from the suppliers and product representatives in an organised format. Furthermore, to make it accessible, it is best to have such information organised and uploaded online to cloud storage. I recommend the following cloud storage sites that give you substantial amount of free space. Google drive, Onedrive (preferred if you have a Microsoft account), Mediafire, Mega and of course Icloud for apple users.
An upcoming source to acquire travel product knowledge is the online library at ITJ eLearning. This portal stores product information from travel product providers such as hotels, tourism boards, attractions, cruises, etc. and makes it available for free to travel agents and travel professionals. It is very helpful to access knowledge on the go.
7. Be available, be dedicated
An expert travel consultant main desire is to become the most knowledgeable, confident, and client-supportive advisor possible. And, this is true for most professionals who pursue a travel career. Therefore, whenever you read news about an airline, see a commercial shot in Paris, follow Indian cricket team’s international tour to Australia and New Zealand, watch the iconic scene of Mission Impossible -Ghost Protocol atop the Burj Khalifa, make a list in your mind to research more about these destinations or locations, if you already don’t have much information about it, just in case you would like to recommend to your client in future.
There are some travel experts who keep themselves armed with a list of questions before they go on a fam. They study the itinerary thoroughly and make it a mission to learn more about the suppliers, the attractions that have been included and explore the potential of the product or destination.
Finally, to be an expert in travel product knowledge, you must have initiative and a sense of curiosity. You must feel the need to know everything that could be useful for your current and future clients. No doubt, the expertise grows with experience, but above all it is also something you do for yourself to be a professional travel agent.
We hope you found this useful. Do leave a comment.
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