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Travel Agents Struggle to Find Their Voice on Social Media

@SamShankman

Mar 31, 2014 8:00 am

Skift Take

Agents that work with large corporations or older clients will likely see fewer returns than those who work with digitally savvy travelers.

— Samantha Shankman

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Andrew O.  / Flickr

The quaintness of high-street travel agent shopfront...remains quaint, and empty. Andrew O. / Flickr


Social media represents an enormous opportunity for brands, organizations and individuals looking to build their voice and attract new fans or customers. But it’s an opportunity that many travel agencies today have let quietly pass them by.

According to ASTA’s 2013 Technology and Web Usage Report, 40 percentĀ of travel agents today don’t see social media as valuable, while a smaller but growing percentage of agents realize the marketing potential of the platform.

In the past two years, the percentage of agencies that describe social media as “nice to have” rose from 17 to 22 percent and those that describe it as “essential” rose from 13 to 17 percent.

Among those agents is Stacy Small, founder of Elite Travel International, who has built her Twitter following to more than 50,000 people in the past five years.

“I have always viewed Twitter and Facebook as an opportunity to position myself — both to existing clients and potential ones — as the go-to luxury travel advisor,” Small tells Skift.

Small’s high level of activity and proactiveness in answering her followers’ questions have led to lucrative leads, but as she says, “it’s not an overnight path to success.”

Small is also targeting a specific kind of luxury and digital savvy traveler who would rather learn about destinations via Instagram updates than mailed paper pamphlets.

A perfect example of the kind of business she’s drummed up on social media is the boom in requests she received after a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur posted about the trip she planned for him. His followers were able to easily learn about her company online and subsequently solicit her services.

Hesitant to Invest

Other agents are more hesitant to invest in the platform, in large part because they don’t see a high potential for returns. Nine out of ten agencies that use social media report sourcing less than 5 client leads a month over the last three years.

Among those that use social media, one-third report the platforms have no impact on their total revenue. Another two-thirds; however, report the platforms impacting one to ten percent of their revenue.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 2.01.24 PM

Agencies also report that social media is about as useful as a website for sourcing new client leads.

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