Keynote speaker Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, notes that the luxury and youth markets are travelling right now. She adds that a portion of the middle market is waiting a bit longer but they’ve saved money and they are ready to go. Travel agents will be an important part of their return, says Bettridge.
She says the trade could consider innovation like bringing their customers together for an evening or asking a valued client to bring along their friends and family for a glass of wine at the agency to talk about travel.
‘Also, don’t be afraid to give them new ideas, like a mystery cruise. Ask them if they have considered going to Egypt, if they are going to France have they thought about taking two river cruises back to back in Europe?’
Answering a comment from the audience about balancing the need to put out new ideas while serving clients despite having reduced work forces, Bettridge said the answer is not one people really want to hear.
‘Right now you just have to work harder and you have to look at employing people who don’t have experience in travel, and training them. The insurance industry, for example is a ripe source to get people from right now.’
Bettridge says a key ‘take-away’ is that travel agents are needed more than ever.
‘There have been headlines for years about travel agents dying but they are not going anywhere. Studies out of the United States shows that 60% of people who have not used travel agents before say they will use one now.
‘People are coming back to travel but many are anxious and worried and they need you. The pent up demand is real, so be aggressive and get your share.’