By Guest Writer: Ruth Franklin
Working with travel agents gives you access to a wider market, but to ensure results, the starting point should be developing a positive relationship with agents who understand your property. It is the agent’s job to make the sale but in order for them to do so they must have a good knowledge of your property. They need to be able to paint the perfect picture for their clients, your future guests.
Here are our top 6 tips for guesthouses looking to work with travel agents.
1. Awareness of Markets
Not every travel agent will be suitable to market your property. Do your homework, check their website and understand the type of products/properties they sell. Check the market they promote within, not just the destinations they market within but also the travel style of that market. Are they focused on luxury, families, budget travel for example. Carefully assess to ensure they are the right fit as this will increase your chance of building a strong relationship.
2. Initial Contact
This is where you want to build a relationship and create a personal touch. If you have done your homework you will understand how your property fits within the agent’s portfolio. This is the information you need to share when you first approach them. A travel agent needs to know why they should market your property and why you think your property is a good fit for them. What are the benefits for them?
Try and avoid a one email fits all approach and do your best to reach out to the appropriate person. The sales agent is not the person responsible for sourcing properties and your email is unlikely to go any further than the deleted folder.
3. Property Information
Ensure your agent can understand the key selling points of your property and your island. What makes you different?
Provide reference material for your agents, consider that this may often be passed on to their clients . If you don’t provide the supporting material they need for them to make a sale, the chances are your product will be at the bottom of the pile.
Ensure they have a comprehensive fact sheet which includes type of rooms, facilities and amenities, transfer options and activities offered.
Images should be of high quality and updated regularly. Beautiful images of the Maldives are great but consider that agents and their clients will also be interested in how the property and the rooms look.
4. Understand Commission Rates
Commission is what matters most to agents, because it’s how they get paid. There are 2 types of rates; the retail rate, what the guest pays and the net rate, the rate the agent adds their commission to.
Mistakes that you should avoid:
– Giving different commission rates to different types of agents/distributors.
– Not providing your best producing agents with preferential rates or using a ‘kickback’ commission approach.
– Giving last minute bookings from online travel sites better rates than agents.
– Giving exclusivity to an agent or market.
– Not having a clear agent rate sheet – is tax included? What are payment terms? What are your booking and cancellation policies?
5. Service Assurance
Agents need to see that guest service is a priority for you because clients will also blame them if they have a bad time. If guests keep complaining to your agents then you can be sure that they won’t recommend you in the future. The experience you deliver their clients ultimately impacts their reputation and brand.
Share your service policy with agents. Share review sites where you are listed. Seek feedback from guests during their stay as this will allow you to resolve any issues during the guest’s stay and never blame the travel agent if there is a problem.
6. Prompt Clear Communication
Ensure you maintain good lines of communication. Travel agents are looking for fast responses, seven days a week. They want to be able to get answers to questions, confirm availability and booking requests in order to close the sale with their client in a timely and efficient manner
Remember that your relationship with a travel agent is a partnership. The results you achieve are not just about the effort the travel agent puts in to sell your property. It is also about the effort you put in to support your travel agent.