Sanjay is a Technologist and founder of Vervotech, a SaaS-based accommodation data provider. He also founded techspian.
The travel industry is one of the fastest-growing industries globally, and travel agencies play a critical role in this success. Travel agencies are essential to developing and growing a country’s tourism and GDP. From reserving and booking flights, hotels and cars to providing travel insurance and documentation, travel agencies help make travelers’ booking experiences hassle-free.
After working for over a decade in the travel industry, I have seen the highs and lows of travel agencies, and to everyone’s surprise, they have stayed resilient and continued to be a one-stop-shop for travelers to research, plan and book their trips, even during the pandemic.
In this fast-changing world where consumers’ demands are always evolving, travel agencies have had to constantly improvise when it comes to their travel products, services and offerings. There’s a lot all businesses can learn from these innovative approaches and strategies.
Let’s take a look at the six main types of travel agencies and the strategies they use to stay relevant and essential to their customer bases.
1. Offline Travel Agency
Before the onset of the internet, customers would plan and book holidays with a travel agent in person. But with the rise of technology and the internet, offline travel agencies have lost their charm and have proven to be expensive compared to online travel agencies.
Within this subset of travel agencies, there is a new model called a retail travel agency. A retail travel agency functions just like any retailer, buying from wholesalers and selling travel products directly to the customers. In an age where wholesale and budget-friendly deals are paramount, this new model targets customers who need help with:
• Creating travel itineraries.
• Finding the best deals and offers.
• Arranging transportation and accommodation.
• Obtaining refunds and cancellations.
• Handling insurance, travel documents and currency.
2. Online Travel Agency
The online travel agency (OTA) is one of the most popular and successful travel agencies of all time, selling travel products such as airfare, lodging, car rentals, holiday packages and more directly to the consumers. OTAs come with a high degree of expertise and knowledge, making it easier for consumers to book complex travel itineraries.
In my opinion, OTAs are the connectors between hoteliers, airlines, suppliers and travelers.
Their value proposition is building a strong personal relationship with consumers and understanding their ever-evolving needs. It’s their personalized customer experience that leads to their enormous success. Businesses in all industries should take note: Individualized experiences are key for today’s customers.
3. Wholesale Travel Agency
The entire travel distribution channel is highly complex, and wholesalers also play an important role here. Wholesale travel agencies buy travel products in bulk from airlines, hoteliers and transportation companies and sell them to retail travel agencies.
They have expertise in planning, organizing, creating, and marketing holiday package tours based on a traveler’s preference, and they act as the middleman between vendors and retailers. These organizations generally work as B2B sellers.
4. Business Travel Agency
Business travel agencies, or travel management companies (TMCs), focus on managing business travel for their corporate customers. They have an array of advantages over OTAs or meta-search engines, such as deep expertise in business travel, quick booking, heavily discounted airfare and hotel rates, 24/7 on-trip support, crisis management and much more.
More specifically, targeting the business audience, or any audience for that matter, can do organizations a world of good. Finding and working alongside the specific needs of your customer base is essential in any industry today.
5. Leisure Travel Agency
Leisure tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism facets. The primary focus of a leisure travel agency is to sell holiday packages to travelers interested in taking a break from their busy lives. These agencies provide customized holiday packages, arrange itineraries, book accommodation and arrange guided tours and excursions per customers’ preferences.
Again, focusing on the specific needs of your customer base is essential. Leisure tourists are very different from business tourists, and the organizations that service each of them must be different and specialized.
6. Niche Travel Agency
The travelers of today want an experiential travel experience, and that’s why we’re seeing a rise in niche travel agencies. These independent agencies offer specific tourism products designed for niche-interested travelers. Some popular niche tourism categories include ecotourism, agritourism, cultural tourism, health and wellness tourism, cruise tourism and much more. This focus on specialized customer needs goes even further than leisure versus business, and that’s why niche travel agencies are so successful—they know their customers and work to serve them expressly.
Travel agencies provide phenomenal value to their clients in terms of time and money. Since the market is fiercely competitive, each type of travel agency must deliver a unique value proposition to its clients to stay ahead in the game.
Whether you are a leisure travel agency owner or a business travel agency owner, you have to make your client’s booking and travel process seamless. The same goes for any sort of business. By targeting your specific customer base and making their individualized process as easy as possible, you will be able to scale and grow.