Some studies show that travel bookings are increasingly moving online, which in-turn is hurting the way travel agents do business.
What if there is a way to capture that growing digital business without completely comprising the role of the consultant?
It’s the question a number of travel groups are attempting to answer by investing in digital platforms and looking at new online avenues. But this new Australian agency group not only has the answer but is successfully utilising its findings to drive $100,000 bookings back to its consultants.
SmartFlyer Australia, a company brought to Australia four months ago by SmartFlyer in the US and Goldman Travel, is already creating major buzz because of its successful business model.
The technical description for the company is: a home-based agency group focused on selling luxury travel. However, if you look at a little closer, the group and its agents are a social media giant using personal and aspirational imagery to drive more bookings.
It may sound simple, but mastering social media is a lot harder than you’d expect.
Speaking to KarryOn while in Sydney for Luxperience, SmartFlyer Owner and CEO, Michael Holtz, said that the company has successfully mixed the traditional agent with modern initiative to create a perfect blend that captures the new younger audience while maintaining the more conservative market.
And it’s not just working, it’s bringing in big business.
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"When you're able to drink wine or share a meal in someone's home thousands of miles from your own to realize a connection in spite of any language, religious, or political differences, it will change the way you see the world. And there's power in creating that for people." @lilathetourist, @ct.travel ✈️. #SeeSmartiesFly
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“Everyone knows you can book a flight or holiday for a cheap deal but it’s not that deal that’s going to drive long-term bookings, it’s seeing the destination and seeing the agents at those destinations that really inspires people to visit that destination.”
Michael Holtz, SmartFlyer Owner and CEO
The group has it’s own social media accounts as does its agents. They use the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and blog pages to not only share generic holiday images but their own. Holtz explains that by allowing their agents to do this they’re creating a personal connection with their clients.
Using SmartFlyer agent Ben Price as an example, Holtz said that within six months of joining the company Price’s business has gone up by 10 times in one year. This was achieved by leveraging off the company’s social media channels and his own.
“The beauty of what we do is that we don’t have rules and restrictions on our agents from using personal pages to drive bookings,” he said.
Without active social media pages and by not giving agents the freedom to post Holtz believes other agencies are at a huge competitive disadvantage and at risk of being left behind.
“It’s basically shutting down a big door. We’re opening the door but it only works if you’ve got the website to back it up and you’ve established yourself so you’re Google-able.”
— SmartFlyer (@theSmartFlyer) September 6, 2015
David Goldman, Managing Director of Goldman Travel, concurred, saying that allowing agents to share their own holiday images and experiences is like communicating with travellers on a more emotional level and creating long-term bonds.
“We’re not just throwing out a deal and saying book now, it’s more about promoting the destination, the product and helping our clients see what their leisure or business trip could look like.”
David Goldman, Goldman Travel Managing Director
Social media isn’t the only platform the agency group uses to create personal connections with its clients, Holtz said the company has a habit of ensuring they have close relationships with hotel general managers and sales people because they’re the ones that help create those special holiday touches.
“Anyone can book a hotel, but when we personally know the sales person or hotel GM they’ll leave a welcome note or a special gift to make our client’s stay a little special,” he explained.
— SmartFlyer (@theSmartFlyer) August 25, 2015
Another big advantage of being a SmartFlyer agent is the worldwide network of information. The company’s communication system allows agents in Australia to contact their counterparts in another country when they need local information.
For example, if an agent in Australia needs information about the Caribbean, they can easily contact the New York office, for a consultant with first-hand knowledge of the region.
“At the end of the day if someone’s holiday is not spent at the right spot, they’re not going to get the ultimate use of their time.”
SmartFlyer in Australia currently has six agents under its belt and is aiming to have around 20 by the end of the year.
Do you think all agents need to have an online presence?
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