The value of a web site for a travel agent is real. Many continue to operate without a web site and even if they have one, without due consideration for basic design and marketing principles. However, consumers expect business operators to have a web site and the real question is more often the role the website will play in the overall marketing plan of the travel agency.
An American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) report titled on Technology & Website Usage revealed some travel professionals using a Facebook page in lieu of a website indicating a degree of confusion about the role of both a Facebook page and a website in a marketing strategy. It's worthwhile to again consider the role of a web site in marketing your travel agency.
Having a web site without a strategic purpose in mind is worse than not having a web site. Your web site represents your business - it is marketing on your behalf 24 hours a day. It is important, therefore, that it speaks your marketing message accurately and clearly. It will many times be the first place consumers will turn to learn more about you and your travel agency. If your web site does not accurately portray your company's core marketing message, you will confuse and lose many potential clients. To properly represent your business on the web requires preparation and a strategy that is well thought.
I’ve spoken before of the fundamental problem of featuring dozens of supplier specials on travel agency websites. Doing so is absolutely a mistake, a violation of basic marketing principles. Your website should not launch the consumer into a shopping frenzy, but should instead inspire the client to be in direct contact with you to learn more about how they can travel well. Think long and hard before you attempt to duplicate the approach used by the mega-online agencies like Travelocity and Expedia with booking engines, "deals" and discounts. You can't compete with OTAs on their turf - price. Remember, the OTAs sell travel, but your product is YOU and your agency. Consider heading in the completely opposite direction: personal service, expertise, consultation. On that ground the OTAs can't compete with you.
Start with your core message - the story of your agency or travel practice. Who are you? What is your fundamental reason for being a travel consultant, and how will you project that through your web site? Is your marketing message personal service? Luxury? Insight? Price? A list of cheap travel specials, dozens of supplier logos or a heavy emphasis on a booking engine does not project a message of personalized service. The axis between message and presentation has to be clear and consistent.
A travel agency web site and your social media marketing is your most dynamic marketing tool outside of your own personality. For better or for worse, it will represent your company every minute of every day. Don't settle for a quick and easy solution. Have a well-thought plan and execute it with the best tools available to you.
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