The travel industry has always been a complex distribution system comprised of retail travel agents; wholesalers supplying travel services options including transport, accommodation, tours and attractions; and local tourism resources who contract their services with wholesalers. Over the past ten years this distribution system has been impacted by the Internet as consumers can bypass travel agents and go directly to the local tourism resources. However, for the most part, these basic high level relationships are still intact.
These relationships survive because they add value for the customer. Yes, anyone can search the Internet and find a local tourism resource; for example, a one day sponge diving excursion off a Greek island. But it’s the wholesalers who have done the due diligence to learn the details of the excursion, how it stacks up against other local options plus the quality and reliability of the travel experience.
These relationships also survive because these travel partners need each other to bring their travel products and services to the marketplace. The travel agency in Taipei doesn’t have the resources to be knowledgeable about the Greek Islands, and local tourism companies in Greece can’t effectively reach out to Taipei. However, as partners, they form a ecosystem that can provide an excellent travel experience to a person in Taiwan.
What your Travel B2B Resellers Want
The resellers who constitute a subagents network for your travel services share core business objectives; they want to provide excellent customer service, run their business profitably and grow over time. It stands to reason that any travel company whose services can be resold in a manner which helps them reach these objectives will likewise o well – so it’s important tour operators make sure that happens. For example:
Make them look smart: Two of the greatest values travel agents can establish with customers are experience and expertise. Travel sellers need to supply them with fresh, specific, descriptive content they can use to make it clear to customers why the product or service is unique and fits what they’re looking for.
The content must go way beyond rates and availability to create consumer excitement and the sense they can imagine themselves in the setting or activity. Leverage multiple media formats – photos, videos and traveler testimonials.
Make them heroes: The fastest way to lose resellers is to confuse content with hype. Yes, you want content that excites and motivates – but it must be grounded in reality. Then, the onus is on you to make sure travelers have a unique, memorable, experience that matches the media they saw online or in the travel agent’s office.
Yes, sometimes it rains during the entire volcano excursion and other days the monkeys are simply not playful. Regardless, a high quality travel product has plan B & C contingencies for those moments. Your travel reseller network put their recommendations on the line and you simply have to make them heroes. One essential operational activity is reputation management – it’s the safety net for social media mishaps and every travel seller needs it.
…… and what your Travel B2B Resellers Need
As the saying goes, there are wants in life and then there are needs. Your travel reseller network may want to be seen as experts for your product and a hero when the customer’s trip ends – but here is what it needs:
Commissions: as another saying goes, your reseller’s bills aren’t going to pay themselves and commissions are a big part of how that happens. So the business model for your travel services must support a commission load for your resellers.
Variable rates & payments: travel companies with software systems that support variable commissions and automatic payments have the strongest competitive position with resellers – for obvious reasons. With the advent of economical cloud-based travel technology systems, putting your B2B reseller relationships in the hands of an excel spreadsheet no longer makes sense (if it ever did).
Online booking: the days of travel agents calling to check availability or secure a booking are over, now it’s all about online booking. B2B travel resellers need access to systems capable of providing real-time access to: detailed capacities and availability; pricing; multiple/alternative rates; special deals & promotions; stop sales and cancellation policies. Once the booking is completed, your resellers also need an auto-generated email confirmation.
Online Reservations Management: between the booking and travel date, resellers also need to be able to track reservations online – along with: order status; voucher generation; pro-forma invoices and reservation amendments.
Flexibility: remember, resellers are fighting in their own competitive arena: the more flexibility they have to customize the value of your product and services to their market, the more business you are going to get. The system should also enable financial flexibility by making it easy to create special payment terms on a case-by-case reseller basis.
Perhaps the best summation is to emphasize resellers should be viewed as a travel company’s most valuable partners. It literally can’t succeed without them and – with their active involvement and good will – they can have a huge impact on the seller’s growth and profitability. Any investment, stratagem or policy that benefits B2B resellers will be beneficial to the travel company as well.