Making Money In Travel Post-Pandemic
This session, Richard invited Simon Bernardi of Australia and Beyond Holidays to discuss the important topic of making money in a post-COVID world. In recent times, travel agencies have shifted their focus towards the international market, and in doing so; much knowledge of travel within our own borders had been lost. In this session, Simon discussed what is the best way to sell to domestic travellers looking for holiday inspiration, while making profit at the same time.
Simon’s career in the travel and tourism industries is a lifelong one, with roles that included several years heading Qantas Holidays and Jetset Travelworld (now Helloworld), and more recently, being the Managing Partner at Australia and Beyond Holidays. This is an inbound agency that has recently announced a series of ‘hand made travel journeys’ for the domestic market.
AABH And COVID-19
In news that’ll to come as a surprise to no one, AABH, an inbound travel operation, was particularly hit by the impacts of COVID-19. Whereas the company would primarily sell to overseas markets, and make a lucrative profit doing so, AABH and its staff now spend their days issuing refunds and relying on Government programs like JobKeeper to keep the doors open. It’s unfortunately an all-too-familiar story. However, Simon and his business were determined to undergo whatever radical changes were necessary to turn this unprecedented threat into a profitable opportunity.
Across the industry, when seeking high-value sales, it was common to shift one’s gaze to the international market. In doing so, many agents and businesses lost sight of the domestic setting – both in terms of customers and experiences. With no legal alternative currently available, shifting to a domestic focus was the obvious solution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, with the vast knowledge of the Australian experience market used to sell overseas, Simon realised he and his business could leverage this knowledge for the itching-to-travel Australian consumer in ways that were previously overlooked. In essence, that is to make Australian destinations and experiences feel exotic. To achieve this, agents could use their knowledge of the more obscure destinations and experiences to offer customers something they never would’ve been able to find on their own. The Australian market has both the valuable experiences to sell, and the consumers desiring to travel, they simply needed to be brought together in ways that were previously unexpected.
How To Make This Profitable
As competition in the industry grows ever fiercer, it was common practice to begin discussions with prospective customers with the price argument: “we can do it cheaper!”. Simon believes that this is the worst decision one can make, as it strips the industry of all profit making potential, and robs customers from the value that only travel agents and operators can provide. Instead, Simon believes that bringing back the old-fashioned method of packaging tours together is the best way to create high-value products that both satisfy customers, and generate ideal levels of profit for agents. Furthermore, by connecting customers to experiences they would never have been able to find on their own, one can create even greater value through a more personal trip that demonstrates the unique abilities of travel organisers. The key here is to organise and book trips in advance, rather than securing travel bookings and allowing the customer to book their activities once they’ve arrived at their destination.
Engagement Is Key
With abundant time during the shutdown, Simon saw an opportunity to enhance his skills with social media. Taking a free Tafe course, Simon learnt the ins and outs of Facebook to incorporate this medium into his marketing activities. In doing so, Simon realised the benefits of being able to have real-time interactive conversations with prospective clients. Gone are the old days of using pre-printed flyers with prices stamped on. Now, conversations can be started at any time, and begin without any mention of price. What’s more, by searching through niche Facebook groups, one can find customers with the most specific of needs, which as a travel organiser, you can cater for with your expert knowledge. Simply by having genuine conversations in these groups, one can develop entire groups of interested and invested customers, who were simply happy to have the conversation in the first place. If you can offer them something new they haven’t thought of before, you’ll be well on the way to securing sales.
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Simon’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon’s Phone: 61 3 7002 1830