As I have stated previously, the Hospitality and Tourism industry has done a fairly decent job of utilizing digital marketing to get the word out. But there is one aspect of the industry that could use some improvements in this area: home-based travel agencies. They have a couple of sites such as Home Based Travel Agent Information Center (http://www.homebasedtravelagent.com
) and Travel Agent Central (http://www.travelagentcentral.com/home-based
) that offer how-to’s on getting started and links to other sites that offer host agency opportunities for home-based agents. The majority of home-based travel agents have an affiliate host agency that sends business their way but doesn’t market them as their own stand-alone business. A percentage of the home-based agents profits go to the host agency and generally doesn’t afford the agent an opportunity to branch outside of their host agency. There are no links to outside marketing opportunities for that individual who wants to branch out and build their business outside their affiliate host. There have been issues in the past for home-based agents in building the public trust if they were not affiliated with a host agency. But I think with the new digital age, the pendulum can swing the other directions by these agents utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media, and Email Marketing.
It seems if the information comes from Facebook or Twitter, it carries a lot of credibility with consumers today because other consumers who have used the product or service placed the information there. We saw examples of that from Starbucks fans. Starbucks was wise to capitalize on these fan pages and integrate that into their marketing scheme. A lot of home-based agents have a niche market they cater to such as cruisers or senior travelers. Blogging using those keywords, SEO can push people toward their website. If the home-based agent builds a social networking page such as Twitter, their clientele can tweet in real time the events taking place on their vacations and those tweets will be posted via feeds to the agent’s home page. People will want to sign up for newsletters and updates. This will generate interest and will gain the consumer’s trust that their travel needs will be met. Of course, they will not abandon their affiliate host. They will however, end up enhancing their host business. If the home-based agent gets a request for a particular part of the world they do not handle, chances are the affiliate host agency does. It is a win-win situation for all involved.