3 Expert Tips to Help Destinations of any Size Engage with Local Travel Trade

Aussies and Kiwis are satisfying their love for travel and adventure by looking no further than their own backyards. In fact, Traveller’s Post-Covid Research Report indicates that 82% of survey respondents intend to travel within their state or around Australia.

This trend is no doubt driven by current COVID realities, but also by an emerging spirit of connectedness amongst Australians and Kiwis and a strong desire to support local communities big and small.

Destinations looking to capture their share of this domestic market should consider a variety of strategies to generate awareness and desire. One such strategy is establishing a stronger relationship with their local travel trade to open up travel product distribution channels and incorporate an additional sales arm through engaged travel agents.

Before you can jump into relationship-mode, it’s important to understand the travel trade environment and ensure you’re “trade ready.” Not sure where to begin? We’ve got three tips (plus a bonus tip!) to set your destination up for success when it comes to travel trade engagement.

We recommend starting with a comprehensive travel trade audit to understand your travel product and package distribution through major channels. Once you understand your starting point, you can begin evaluating new channels and strategically select the ones that cater to your target audience and demographic.

Tip 1: Find your space in the market and make it a part of your packaging and engagement strategy

Travel agents generally perceive Australian and New Zealand destinations as all somewhat similar, signaling an opportunity to inform them what unique opportunities you have on offer. To educate the trade on your destination, you must first consider what makes you stand out. Then, weave those unique selling points through your destination’s messaging, product, and packaging.

Once you’re ready to engage the trade community, cut through the noise with a unique training program or incentive. You could host an epic virtual roadshow, a series of informative webinars, or a training incentive to sweeten the deal for the agent community.

When tailoring incentives, understanding the current environment, and how the prizes you provide will add value to the agents is key. For example, rather than providing the usual grand prize of an airplane ticket, Brand USA strategically chose smaller weekly grocery gift card prizes during their ‘One Badge Wonder’ training incentive. As many agents were facing little to no income during the lockdown, the utilitarian prize, which could be used to alleviate financial stress, was highly motivating.

When producing educational materials and assets, remember to align with emerging travel trends (like the current self-drive trend), and provide itineraries that give agents what their clients are requesting. According to surveys conducted by Gate 7, agents are increasingly keen on ‘brandable’ itineraries that allow them to customise marketing materials with their logos and brand elements.

Tip 2: Engage and educate your local operators and stakeholders

As many regional Australian and New Zealand operators have not had much experience working with the travel trade, they may not fully understand the benefits of travel trade distribution. Educating your local stakeholders on how to engage and collaborate with trade networks and highlighting the value of paying commission to leverage the network’s highly engaged database of customers is crucial to maximising the partnership between your destination’s stakeholders and the trade.

No matter the size of a destination, as long as there are reasons to visit and things to do, you can find opportunities through trade distribution. Our friends in Port Macquarie discovered this for themselves after undertaking a pilot trade campaign resulting in almost 1,000 packages sold for one local operator in just one month.

Tip 3: Leverage your amazing content to help paint the picture

In an increasingly noisy consumer space, getting your destination’s content seen by the right people is critical. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words, and the more eyeballs your content gets, the greater awareness (and visitation) your destination will receive.

Extend the reach of your destination’s beautiful image and video content by distributing it through trade channels and provide travel agents with assets to create packages from the available products. Not only is this a great way to lower cost as traditional methods of advertising can get fairly expensive, distributing your content through a carefully selected trade partner will enable you to target a niche audience that is already aligned with your value proposition.

BONUS TIP! Make travel trade a key audience

While all destinations create communications that target unique consumer audiences, all too few consider the massive travel trade community as one of their key audiences. Rather than incorporating travel trade as an afterthought in your destination marketing strategy, consider how you can bring them right to the forefront of your communications.

You might try:

  • Building an agent-specific page on your destination’s website. Bigger country-based tourism organisations such as Brand USA generally host two unique websites, one targetting consumers and one targetting the travel trade. While setting up a brand new site might be a big first step, creating an agent-specific landing page or section on your website is a great first step.
  • Setting up specific communications to the agent community such as a monthly email blast to update the agents on your destination’s news and offers.
  • Incorporating trade-focused posts into your social strategy. The best practice of country-based tourism organisations is to create separate social channels for consumer and trade. However, creating a handful of agent-focused posts to include in your existing socials is an easy and effective way to get the ball rolling.

Taking any of the above steps will put you in front of dozens of other local destinations who have yet to prioritise their relationship with local travel trade.

And remember, you don’t have to do this all at once. Start by making a roadmap and pick just one of the suggestions to trial. With so many possible travel trade partners to choose from and myriad ways to maximise the relationship, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach. But, we are sure that any approach which integrates travel trade will provide a better return on investment and pave the way for a fruitful relationship well into the future.

With over 22 years of experience collaborating with the Australian and New Zealand travel trade, we understand their world and their challenges. Let us help you forge new relationships and reap the benefits of true travel trade engagement. Drop us a line and let’s chat about your goals.