Summer Tourism: School is Back in Session for Travel Agencies

Summer Tourism: School is Back In Session for Travel Agencies

Hold on to your hammock: school is out, and Americans will be taking more than 325 million vacations in June, July and August. About 65 million of them were researched or booked on-line.

If that is not enough to suggest on-line opportunity for travel agencies, consider this:

The on-line travel market is estimated at $60 billion and growing fast;
On-line bookings average $750, versus $400 off-line;
In 2006, for the first time, more trips were booked on-line than by any other method;
The next most-common method, phone booking, plunged 16 percent from 2005, and
Travelers who use the Internet to plan and purchase trips almost always visit multiple sites.

Big players are cashing in. On-line travel agents like Orbitz® and Expedia® continue to thrive, but face competition from two new sources. Travel research sites, or “meta” sites, like Mobissimo®, use customer criteria to search hundreds of sites for the best option. Research-oriented sites include traditional guidebook publishers like Fodor’s® and new on-line-only firms like Realtravel.com®.

Is there room for smaller players? Yes. People shop around when planning travel, no matter how big or beautiful a particular Web site may be: if they can find your site, it appears they will come.

Therefore, a crucial step is boosting search-engine visibility. A savvy search-engine-optimization partner enables the travel agency’s Web site to attract a share of the enormous traffic by:

Creating and refreshing keyword/key phrase content;

Crafting an effective and ethical linking strategy;

Developing site elements search engines reward;

Cleaning up site elements search engines penalize, and

Discovering further enhancements by analyzing site date.

Of course, once the visitors start coming, the travel agency needs a compelling message to keep them there. Most importantly, its Web site must communicate the company’s position in the industry and its unique value, and provide the information its target customers want. The site should be easy to navigate, fast-loading and invite customer communication.

There seems to be little or no slowdown in leisure travel, despite an up-and-down economy and high fuel prices; one can only imagine the growth when conditions improve. But opportunity does not guarantee success in a changing market. The travel industry is quickly reaching the point where the Internet will dominate to the near exclusion of all other selling channels. Companies can take advantage by becoming Web-marketing stars — or retire to the hammock.

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