Despite the growth of online travel booking sites travel agencies are still thriving, with many local travel agencies serving as the go-to place for people who want the personal touch and custom recommendations that only a travel agent can offer.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly one-quarter (23%) of domestic leisure travelers relied on friends and relatives to plan their trips. The same association also found that “one in ten used destination websites, nine percent used traveler provider websites (airline, hotel, rental car, cruise, tours, etc.), five percent used social networking and four percent used a mobile device to help plan their trip.”
While these domestic travelers looked to their peers for advice and have booked many of their own trips online, the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s 2014 report on travel agent jobs shows there is still a significant area of opportunity to work in this segment and provide travel advice, planning, and reservations for those who prefer to work directly with a person on their travel plans. This is often the case with corporate and business travelers who recognize the value of having a travel expert who can handle all these arrangements.
Specialization and Service
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also noted in its outlook for travel agencies that the best prospects are to create a specialized area of expertise to attract today’s travelers that are seeking specific types of experiences. For some, this might be corporate travel arrangements, but for others it could be eco-vacations or luxury experiences. With this growing competition from online travel sites, a travel agency must focus even more on service as the differentiating feature that adds more value than these online travel booking machines.
In order to provide that specialized knowledge and personal touch to every travel booking you do as a travel agent, you need to minimize your time on the other aspects of your business that take away from the time you can spend offering this expertise and service. While you may have automated many of your business processes within your travel agency, there may be some other places you did not realize now provide further ways to focus on your core business.
Online Invoicing Tools for Travel Agencies
Here are some online invoicing tools that can help your travel agency business to spend less time on collecting money and more time making it:
- As a travel agent trying to differentiate yourself in a competitive market, it helps to use an online invoicing tool that lets you customize the invoice template with your company logo and accompanying brand colors. This creates an instantly recognizable document for your customers where they equate your service level with the brand they see, making receiving that bill a more pleasurable experience while you continue to market to them with custom messages to show your appreciation for their business or notes about upcoming travel deals that might interest them. These invoices also look more professional, sending the message that you are all business, not an amateur.
- It’s invaluable to have an online invoicing tool that does the math for you in relation to fees, discounts, and taxes so you don’t have to add that up yourself. Having automated calculations really takes the risk of human error out of the equation so you can send an accurate invoice and be paid quickly rather than having to re-send a revised invoice to your customers.
- Since you are dealing in international locations, you may have customers located throughout the world but are looking for assistance with travel reservations in your area. It helps create a relationship with these customers by offering them estimates and invoices in their currency so they can better understand the costs involved in the travel plans they are considering. There are online invoicing tools that now offer that real-time currency exchange calculations to provide invoices that speak your clients’ individual languages.
- While tracking your time may not be as important to your customers because they are not paying you by the hour, it is good if you use an online invoicing tool that tracks time in order to better understand how you are using your time. This can help you track your productivity and determine where you might be able to use your time more effectively.
- Since you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to book and pay for their travel, using an online invoicing tool provides a way to send those invoices directly to your customers’ email in-boxes. This way they can pay from any device straight from the invoice. Your customers can then choose from a wide range of payment portals that will make it quick and easy to get their travel paid for while your agency gets revenue faster. This also means less time spent on tracking down delinquent payments.
- You can send out batch invoices with many options to save data that gets continually reused each month. Using this feature available from online invoicing tools saves even more time, including scheduling these invoices to upload and send on any day and time you prefer.
With so much of your invoicing tasks now done online, you will have the time to focus on creating a niche travel agency with an outstanding reputation for personal service that delivers unique travel experiences.