Are you a new hotelier that wants to tap into the lucrative travel agent market? It is a market that I have dealt with before as a Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for a hospitality group. As such, I can provide a crash course on which groups of people you’ll need to target with your marketing efforts.
Based on my experience, there are three main types of travel agents. They are independent travel agents, travel consortiums and travel management companies. Those groups may be broken down further into three separate sub-groups. They are retail travel agents, wholesale travel agents and consortium agents. Here’s a quick breakdown of each one:
Independent Travel Agents
Independent travel agents traditionally work from a retail location or from their home. Some are certified, some are not. From a marketing perspective, they are often the most costly and hardest travel agent segment to reach for those reasons. Depending on their client base and reputation, the return on investment (ROI) will also vary.
Based on personal experience, I suggest that hoteliers target this segment judiciously with a close eye towards potential ROI. I have had unpleasant experiences where uncertified travel agents promised things to their clients that they couldn’t deliver and the hotel that I was working for at the time suffered the fall out.
For example, there was one instance where an uncertified travel agent told their client that they had made all these reservations and paid the advance deposits required to secure the client’s spots. In reality, the agent pocketed the money, never made all the reservations and then disappeared without a trace. In an effort of good will, I helped the client make new reservations, gave him a steep discount on his room and helped him make the contacts he needed to start legal proceedings against the agent.
Travel consortiums are made up of a group of independent travel agents that typically specialize in a particular type of travel. For example, there are cruise travel consortiums and airline consortiums. The main reason why independent travel agents form or join consortiums is to garner greater buying power and influence in the market.
Personally, I would suggest that you focus a good deal of your marketing efforts on both the travel consortiums and travel management companies for two main reasons. First, they typically offer a high return on your marketing investment because of the high volume booking potential. Second, most agents that are part of consortiums or management companies have been vetted in some way as part of the organization’s bylaws.
Travel Management Companies
Travel management companies are the behemoths of the group. They are essentially one-stop-shop, gigantic travel organizations that plan and control all aspects of a person’s travel. They generally handle everything from securing the rental car that their client is scheduled to drive to making dinner reservations at the client’s favorite restaurant. Because of their size, the travel management companies are often able to secure the deepest discounts for their clients. Some big name travel management companies of note are Carlson Wagonlit, AMEX and Maritz Travel.
It will typically take some time to gain the trust of this group. However, those efforts have the potential to pay off quite handsomely. The only downfall from a hotelier’s perspective is that you will need to pony up deep discounts at all times of the year, including peak periods. This can substantially affect your room revenue management strategies, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Killeen Gonzalez has a degree in hotel and restaurant management. She has since retired from the hospitality industry.
More from this contributor:
What it Takes to Become a Hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing
Room Revenue Management Calculations Every Hotelier Needs to Know
How to Forecast Room Availability: A Guide for New Hotel Managers
Solo Group Travel Opportunities for Women Worth a Second Look