Meena commented on last weeks post, “I would be interested in knowing how any agency tries to go the extra mile, to become the chosen one.”
Like all business, travel businesses try “to become the chosen one” by providing more perceived value than the alternatives.
In general the things that buyers value in travel are the same as the always have been for any business at any time.
One important factor has recently changed and there has always been one important difference between travel and most other enterprises.
What has changed (and in my view will change more than it already has) is that in travel, as in most other fields, the buyer has an unprecedented amount of alternatives and access to knowledge to make informed choices.
What is somewhat unique to travel is the vast difference between the buyers’ experiences and perception before the trip in the planning stage and during the trip in the experiencing stage. This is an important and complicated distinction that I’ll get back to at the end of this post.
Of the countless ways that travel businesses go to attract and keep client and guests, I’ll give you just one very recent example involving the two most basic travel products beds and seats on airplanes.
Last week in Mexico City I had the opportunity to watch the owners of travel agencies with many of the highest net worth clients in the United States supervise and support their people back in the US who were working day and night to do anything they could to help hundreds if not thousands of their clients who were stranded in Europe because of the ash clouds from Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland.
On Friday afternoon I happened to be sitting at lunch with Priscilla Alexander, CEO, of ProTravel, one of the 20 largest agencies in The States. She was wearing out her Blackberry alternating between helping her people help her clients and cancelling a personal vacation that she had planned in Mexico for after Symposium. I overheard her say to someone, “Tell him I am really sorry to cancel. I’ve been looking forward to this vacation for months.”
If their was any way to get from Northern Europe to the few open airports in Southern Europe by surface transportation and get a seat on a seat on a flight back to The States from those airports clients of ProTravel and similar companies were going to get home—and if they needed to stay overnight before their flight they were going to get a bed—and they were going to get that bed at a fair price.
Travel agents who provide that level of service have existed for a long time. What is new is the multiplicity of ways and prices available to travelers who buy on the same day the same seat to travel on the same days.
The next obvious question is do you pay a premium for the ticket from an agency of this caliber.
It depends on the negotiating leverage that agencies have relative to the airlines at any particular time. There are times when they can pass on savings. There are times when their margin if any is less than the cost of giving the service in which case they have to pass on their cost to their clients. Large agencies have more buying power, but that only helps when there is surplus of seats.
Whether paying a premium for this kind of service is worth it completely depends on perceptions, values—and the pocket book of the buyer. For the executive who got back home in time to see her daughter’s star performance in the school play, no doubt it is.
This where the distinction between perceptions pre trip and during trip come into play. When you are making the buying decision, how do you know the chances needing help in a crisis or the how much value top of the line planning and arrangements will add to any particular business trip or vacation. Obviously you can’t know. So I suspect that the value involved when buyer decide whether or not to buy premium travel services is something akin to peace of mind.
Several people commented that they were interested in reading more of “Change, Travel, Technology, and Magic.” I sent them the whole thing. I will probably post more of it, but if anyone else wants it let me know and I’ll send it to you.
Jessie Drew-Cates commented, “In general can you also give some idea of what you perceive as future travel?” If anyone out there has a clue I’d sure like to read it.