Industry Talks: Travel Agents – Meet our panel of Travel Agents and read what they have to say about the Travel Agency Industry
1. How long have you been working in your current Travel Agency
Jingle: Ten Months
Cecilia: Five Years
Ryan: Four Years
Marigold: Seventeen Months
Marisse: Fifteen Years
Claire: Three Years
2. What is your position/role?
Jingle: General Manager
Marisse: I started out in Accounting and moved quickly to Executive Assistant to the Owner. I handle the IATA Billing Settlement Plan and Domestic Flight Ticketing, also International ticketing and hotel reservations for our VIP guests, when the Owner is not available.
3. What drove you to work in the Travel Agency Industry?
Ryan: It’s my way of introducing my province to the outside World.
Marisse: For me it was just by fate that a vacant position was offered. But I stayed because of the sense of fulfillment from providing a memorable travel experience. You get to travel the world for free, just by researching the next destination that the guest is flying to.
Jingle: I have a passion for traveling and sightseeing myself; I wanted to be able to help customers achieve their dream holidays.
Cecilia: My love for travel helped focus my career path; being able to offer travel related services to different travelers
Marigold: I worked as a Hotelier and I have been a World Traveler. It’s been a job and a sort of hobby organizing events, making itineraries, planning trips, which led me to open my own travel agency.
Claire: When I was still working in a hotel as Sales Manager, I dreamed to put up my own travel agency business. Until such time when I have two (2) children, in 2015, and needed to look after them. I decided to start my business (travel agency) as home-based. I was challenged and I started based on my knowledge of the tourism industry.
4. What Areas does your Travel Agency Cover?
Cecilia: Boracay and Siargao, as well as Domestic and International Flights
Ryan: Batanes, as well as Domestic Flights
Marigold: El Nido and Coron, as well as Domestic and International Flights.
Marisse: Cebu, as well as Domestic and International Packages and Flights.
Claire: We have offices in Ilocos, Kalinga & Antipolo. We offer Domestic and International packages, and Flights
Jingle: We cover Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Dumaguete, Palawan, Pampanga and Manila
5. What services do you offer?
Cecilia: Inbound and Outbound travel in the Philippines, Asia and around the World. Customized Travel Itineraries, based on the clients preferences, time available and budget.
Jingle: Inbound Tour Operator; Customized Packages and Programs; Join in Tours; Packages and Programs; Day Tours and limited duration Tours; Basic Customized or Complete Itineraries; Incentives; Meetings and Conventions; Accommodation; Air, Land & Sea Transportation Bookings; Adventure and Special Interest Tours, Activities and Packages
Claire: Domestic and International Ticketing, Tourist Visa Application Assistance, Online Passport Assistance, Local and International Tour Package, PSA/NSO Documentation, NBI Online Scheduling Assistance, Hotel & Resort Reservation & Transportation Rental
Ryan: Batanes Island Tours, Accommodation and Domestic Flights
Marisse: International and Domestic Flights, Hotel and Land Arrangements, Accommodation.
Marigold: Inland transfers, Private and Join-in Island-hopping Tours in Coron and El Nido, Domestic and International Flights, Fast Boat Transfers, Tour Packages, Diving Packages and Courses and Accommodation.
6. What attractions does your area have, that makes it stand out from other areas?
Cecilia: For Boracay we have Island-hopping Tours, Watersport Activities like Parasailing, Jetski, Banana Boat and Paraw Sailing. We also book land tours such as ATV and Buggy Rides. For Siargao, we have island-hopping tours to three islands, Sohoton Cove Trip, Sugbar Lagoon, Land Tours around Siargao to Magpupungko Rockpools, Pacifico Beach and Tayangban Cave.
Marisse: For Cebu we have the Twin City Tour, Highlands Tour, Northbound and Southbound Tours. Basically, we agents have the same products, we just differ on the quality of service, and price.
Ryan: Batanes is unique with its landscapes and seascapes, its Honesty Store, the Lighthouses, the typhoon-proof stone houses and, most of all, its people; The Ivatans, with a unique culture and the customs of living in nature.
Marigold: El Nido is known as the last Ecological Frontier of the Philippines; it has crystal clear water, pristine beaches, Spectacular limestone cliffs over marine sanctuaries and a wealth of Flora and Fauna. Our Best Attraction? I’d have to say it is the rich, marine biodiversity, beautiful scenery and quiet sea conditions of Bacquit Bay Archipelago. Island hopping is a must. Diving, to explore the wonder of this paradise underwater life. Hike the highest peak of Taraw Cliff. Road Trips to the most northern part of El Nido and surfing the waves at Duli Beach.
7. How do people make bookings with you & what are your demographics?
Cecilia: Mostly our bookings are from Westerners; from Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand. Age wise the range is 18-60 years old, Middle Class (Class B) and either backpackers or seasonal travelers.
Ryan: Our guests are mostly Filipino’s, in the 30-60 age range; guests who appreciate simplicity.
Jingle: We mostly receive inquiries via email from our Agents abroad. As we are a Korean-owned Travel Agency, our main demographic is Koreans, who are in the 40-70 age range. We also receive bookings from Europeans and the UK, again in the 40-70 age range.
Marigold: 50% of our travelers book via our Office. 20% book via Social Media or our website, and 10% come from Partners (Proxy). We also have about 20% who book with us because a friend recommended us to them. Ours is a young demographic and mostly Europeans; Spanish, French, German, Scandinavian. We also receive bookings from Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese as well as United Arab Emirates. 18-30 yrs old and mostly Millennial’s.
Marisse: 50% of our travelers book over the phone, about 30% book online or via email and 20% drop in to our Office. We work with a lot of Filipino/Chinese, in the 35-75 age group, and mostly Upper and Middle Class.
Claire: 10% of our bookings are over the telephone, 10% are received from Partner Agencies (Proxy), 30% are walk-in’s, and 50% are online or via email. Country-wise most of our bookings are from Filipino’s in the 30-60 age range. 20% of our bookings are with Japanese travelers, in the 20-30 age range. 15% are Americans with an age range of 50-70 years, whilst we see 10% of bookings from Canadians aged 40-60. We also get about 5% of bookings from Europeans in the 40-50 age range.
8. What are your highest and lowest sellers?
Cecilia: Hotel Bookings is the lowest for us, as there are so many Online Travel Agents for accommodation. Our biggest sellers are Flights, Packages and Tours.
Jingle: For us Package Tours sell the most, while Airfares sell less.
Claire: Our biggest seller remains Flights, because we offer lower rates compared to online booking. Our lowest seller now is also Accommodation. Most travelers, now-a-days book directly through a hotels own website.
Marisse: For hotels, a lot of online offers can be found for the budget conscious consumers, which they feel they get cheaper rates. More of our Sales come from ticketing. We also have Sub-Agents from other provinces.
Ryan: We are best known for our Land Arrangements with Group Tours, and Private Tours for Pre-nup and Family Packages.
Marigold: Our biggest sales are Tours, Diving and Transfers because we can be very flexible with those offers. Our lowest sales are Packages; these are mostly been pre-arranged and booked through more competitive online sites.
9. What steps have you/your travel agency taken to keep up with the digital world?
Jingle: We promote a lot, through our Facebook Page
Cecilia: Yes, I really optimize my Social Media too
Ryan: I think we gain a lot from word-of-mouth; travelers sharing their experiences online, sharing photos and others, it somewhat contributes on the trend of marketing.
Marigold: For us, to keep up with the social media world my husband Michael is handling our Online Marketing by updating our website regularly; posting on social media and evolving into events, that could call online attention.
Marisse: We also engage with clients through our Facebook page. And we are available through Viber and WhatsApp for easier communication with overseas clients. We often participate in Travel Bazaars too to meet more clients.
Claire: For me, continuous training, attending product updates and offering competitive packages.
10. Some of you have mentioned having lower accommodation bookings due to the international Online Travel Agencies. What do you do to try to stay competitive with Online Travel Agencies?
Marigold: Being an online travel agency is quite a challenge merely by the fact that there’s a lot of bigger and
more influential, existing platforms that already took the huge percentage of the Online Market. To keep us on the hook we are pushing the satisfactory services we deliver; feedback from our clients helps us, through Reviews and Recommendations.
Jingle: As an Inbound Tour Operator, we believe that our wholesaler contracts are still competitive to other Online channels.
Claire: I make sure to continuously update, and offer, competitive packages
Marisse: Same. We update ourselves with the online promos and make our prices competitive.
Cecilia: Offering a hands on service, and personal interaction with clients works for us.
Ryan: Yes, I stay focused and continue giving the best tour services.
11. Why should/would people book with you over Online Travel Agencies/direct bookings? What are the advantages of booking with you?
Ryan: Since we are based in the island, I think we surely know the area better; we’ll give you the best service, hassle free and yet the most affordable rates you can get.
Jingle: Travel Agents like us are trained to take a critical look at each piece in the clients puzzle. Clients have someone to help them, especially if an untoward incident happened along their trip.
Cecilia: Yes, it’s about personalized services; being able to speak to a real person regarding travel inquiries and concerns. We are promoted as a Consultancy; we offer free travel advice and ideas.
Marigold: And it’s all about the quality. We are like friends, sometimes even like family, to our guest. We help them with all the little problems and don’t charge them for every favor.
Marisse: We highly value our TAILORED services, and we are accessible almost 24/7 to our clients
Claire: Having a good network, like Associations of travel agents, is an advantage but mostly it is to maintain professional relationship with clients.
12. What do you need to do to successfully sell tours/packages? What makes you a good sales person?
Marisse: By creating Good value packages and advertising them in a good location, like travel trades and Social Media
Ryan: Sell with a heart and be honest!
Claire: Give a competitive price with a quality service. It makes a good sales person when you monitor your clients from the start of the transaction until they finish the tour.
Jingle: Yes, for me being in the Inbound Tour industry for 15 years, service is what really makes the difference. From the day that we receive an inquiry, to the day that the guest leaves the country, we make sure that we are really hands-on to their needs.
Cecilia: Referrals are also a good technique, and setting up an office where a guest can walk-in.
Marigold: I speak fluent English and German, I think that helps. I studied and worked in Germany for 5 years, which influences me to implement a German Standard to my work. I’m also a qualified Dive Master and EFR Instructor, so I can assure safety to the Guest and can broadly explain the underwater world of El Nido. I am informative; I studied and analyzed the pros and cons of my site, giving all possible information so guest are reassured that they are being assisted by professionals.
13. Do you think that the traditional travel agency industry is currently doing well? Is it doing better or worse than the past few years? What do you think can be done to improve the industry overall?
Claire: Yes, the traditional travel agency industry is doing good. Although digital marketing now a days is our challenge. Traditional Travel Agencies, like having a physical office and acquiring legal business documents, give clients peace of mind when transacting their travel needs.
Marigold: Yes, the traditional Travel Agent is still working out here! Many traditional Agencies have online offers already. philguru.com does but it’s not used very much. I think one reason might be that there is barely any internet in El Nido, so it’s hard to update an online shop from here. Another reason could be the kind of clients we have; they know that the tours are always available, so why would they book in advance?
Jingle: Yes, traditional agencies will always be in the market. Continuous programs are also being offered by Tour Associations and our Department of Tourism
Marisse: Honestly? Not when airlines themselves compete with their accredited agents, through their own online promos, in partnership with credit card companies.
Cecilia: Being able to have standardized prices, means better services to travelers.
14. Travel agencies in other countries have started to embrace virtual reality as a means of selling accommodation and tours. Is it possible to do this in the Philippines as well? How soon do you think we can head in this direction?
Cecilia: Yes, it can happen, if the Philippines will have a good internet connection and advance technology for an affordable price
Claire: Yes, I think its possible having Virtual Reality in the Philippines but not so soon because, for us, Filipinos mostly want to discover areas; to see with our own eyes
Marigold: I wrote an essay about Virtual Reality (V.R.) in Tourism during my studies. My conclusion: It’s nice to have but that’s all. The production of a good VR campaign is still relatively expensive and the benefit is really low. Our customers are mostly backpackers who don’t want to pay a single cent too much. Also most clients book their tours while they are already here, so they just go on the tour instead of looking at it in VR. It might be a nice feature for a very fancy resort though.
Jingle: There are some travel agencies who have started their online platform but I think clients will always be back to have their bookings handled by Travel Agencies.
Marisse: Due to the changing times, I think anytime soon everything will be virtual; when these Millennial’s will be the majority purchasing power.
Industry Talks: Travel Agents Your Hospitality Hub would like to thank the following Travel Agents for taking part in this interview:-
Your Lokal Travel Planner Boracay & Siargao. You can contact Cecilia on:- My Lokal Travel Planner Siargao or My Lokal Travel Planner Boracay or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also telephone (Boracay) (036) 288 9269 or drop in to the Siargao Office: Tourism Road, Purok 5 beside Barrel sports bar
General Luna, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines
Travelways International Inc. You can contact Marisse via Travelways Facebook Page, via email: email@example.com or by telephone: (6332) 255-2316, 255-4195, 256-0629, 253-5712. You can also drop by to the office at: 98 F. Ramos Street, Sta. Cruz, 6000 Cebu City.
Marigold Comodero Streuer
Philguru Travel & Tours. You can contact Marigold via the website, by telephone: 0947 386 71 24 or by email on: firstname.lastname@example.org You can also drop by the office: Pops District, 5313 El Nido, Palawan
Jingle Mendoza Matangay
Skyway Air Travel PH Inc in Manila. You can contant Jingle via the website, by telephone: (+632) 816-2887 or +63995 641 7677, or by email: email@example.com. You can also drop by the office: Room 7055 Golden Phoenix Hotel, Oceanaire Bldg., Sunrise Drive, Pasay City, Manila.
Ryan Lara Cardona
Bisumi Tours and Services. You can contact Ryan via the website, by telephone (Smart:) 0919-2795963
(Globe: 0915-8034582) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also drop by the office: 71 Llopez St., Brgy. Kayvaluganan, Basco, Batanes 3900