Travel agents must integrate social media into business to survive

ACCORDING to a study by Travel Tech Consulting Inc (, the emergence of social media savvy and “always-connected” travellers is set to transform the future of travel and tourism. Millennials or Generation Y travellers are increasingly making their presence felt. Highly mobile and socially connected, they are also said to be impatient, disloyal, and expectant.

Like it or not, travel is becoming more social and not just since TripAdvisor allowed users to connect their Facebook & TripAdvisor accounts and see their Facebook network’s travel activities and reviews.

Online reviews, whether on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, or Foursquare, will be tomorrow’s “social currency” – worth as much, if not more, than traditional, “real-world” referrals and word of mouth. Thanks to the internet, electronic word of mouth quickly ripples through online networks and takes little regard of demographical or cultural boundaries. After all, we all want the best possible travel experience and want to make sure we spend our time and money wisely.

Travel then is increasingly becoming social. The question is, can travel agents join the social revolution and help shape tomorrow’s always-connected travel and tourism industry or will they drown in a sea of social networks, 24/7 consumer chatter, online reviews, and crowd-sourced travel planning?

Unlike others, I firmly believe that travel agents have an important role to play for the foreseeable future. They will only manage to do this successfully, however, if, like marketing professionals, they manage to integrate social and digital into their business operations.

In many ways, we are still at the very beginning of the social and digital travel revolution, so now is an excellent time to take a moment and review your strategies. How much do you currently know about the online habits of your clients? Do you know whether they are more likely to use Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? Do you make it easy for visitors to your website or readers of your email newsletters to share content with their social networks? Does your agency have an account on Pinterest? 

Consumers use social networks differently, some of us are avid Facebook users, while others hang out on Twitter or spend hours sifting through travel-related pins on Pinterest. As a company you need to understand what your clients like to do on each social network, and most importantly how they want to engage with you. The key is to provide content that is relevant and hits the right tone with your customers.

Today’s travellers spend a lot of time online researching destinations, flights, and hotels, yet many still value expert advice from “real” people. Itineraries are getting more complex and, also thanks to the Internet, consumers are faced with an abundance of information and offers. Helping them to make sense of it all and providing expert guidance and assistance, more often than not, is still an important role of travel agents. What has changed is that, unless your present and visible in the ever-growing social and digital universe, tomorrow’s travellers will probably never hear about you, your company, and the fabulous service it provides.

The business case for investing time to become more social in the online world is frighteningly simple: It’s that you’ll still have a business in five years’ time.

By Martin Kubler