Sabre Offers Top Tips for Agencies

In todayå‘s travel environment, it is increasingly important for agencies to establish an online presence. A number of factors prevent agencies from taking this step. In an ongoing effort to encourage agencies to stay ahead of the game, Sabre offers some useful tips: What does it take to get an agency online? What are the challenges? What factors must be taken into consideration to ensure success and return on investment?


Caption: Alicia Gardner
vice president, Sales & Marketing online - Sabre

Ron Philips, a Sabre

customer and President and Owner of Always Travel in the United States - a successful `brick and mortar` travel agency with an established online presence - offers advice from his own experience:


Top 10 Agency do’s

1. Make a realistic assessment about whether an online presence would benefit you commercially: An online presence leaves people free to deal with high yield products like cruise and tours and tailor made spring breaks and holiday bookings.

2. Show commitment.

3. Support staff, or people for starting up an online presence is essential.

4. Maintain a good relationship with your banker - be aware of different bank fees, what they are as relate to the e-commerce that you bill those costs into your business model.

5. You should ensure a good background for making decisions about how you are going to price your products and the different services that you are going to offer.

8. Don’t overstaff. - Remember that one agent can process two or three times as much on-line as they can offline.

9. Try to ensure that you have someone capable of checking your bookings 24 hours a day.

10. Your provider should explain all the different products and options available and which one is the best fit for your business. Your provider should also offer advice and guidance on how to market your website. - This again is an integral part of making the on-line presence successful.

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Alicia Gardner, Vice President of Sabre On-line travel solutions business outlines what travel agents should be doing to market their online presence - Now that you have gone online achieve success. 
How to attract customers to your site

1. Consider the design element

2. Ensure content, functionality, colours, how your site performs, navigation, ease of use to initially attract customers to your site.

3. Continually update the design.


How to attract and retain customers.

1. Register with appropriate search engines.

2. Reciprocal linking with other customers that are related to your business.

3. e-marketing, e-direct marketing via e-mail campaigns or via e-news letters.

4. Advertising - both traditional methods, such as print or banner ads can be cost effective.


How to promote your site

1. Public Relations.

2. Try to get speaking engagements at trade shows.

3. Send out press releases - but remember that the story needs to be compelling.


Continuous improvement loop
 
1. Feedback from customers is invaluable.

2. Start initial customer relationship management processes; build up a profile database and use it to create offers to customers.
3. Research your competitors - make sure you know how they do their online business.

4. Measure hits on your site. You should understand where the hits are coming, what types of visitors you are getting and when they are falling off your site.


Remember:

Jupiter research

shows that 30% offline travel transactions are influenced by the internet.
Tremendous cost savings can be gained by having an online presence even if customers aren’t booking online.
Five Factors Agencies should consider:

1. The cost to get online has reduced significantly over the last 2-3 years, as well as the time frame to get the site up and running. Travel agents should not look at the upfront costs as the biggest stumbling block to getting online.

2. 40% of UK population has internet access. If you’re not sure whether to go online in case customers go to your competitors sites, consider that if you don’t have a site they will definitely go to your competitors.

3. There is a need to integrate the customer service operation of your travel agency with the online operation. Customers should be able to get hold of customer service operation easily.

4. Try to establish a 24 hour presence in your service centre. If this is not possible, you need to have a lead time established on your site for the amount of time in advance that a customer has to purchase tickets.

5. Make sure terms and conditions on the site are clear and specific to the markets they offer.

For more information on how Sabre can help you, visit their website at:
www.sabre.com
Related Stories on ITN:

(01/11/2002) Sabre Seminar to Address Online Marketing for Agents

(26/03/2002) Sabre urges agencies to go online
(18/03/2002) Sabre Tips for Agent Expansion

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