How to: Making suppliers work for you

How to: Making suppliers work for you

The Holiday Team consultant director Maria WhitemanAt a time when agents are reviewing costs on every level, suppliers to the travel trade need to offer something extra to help agents increase their profit.

I've seen businesses save thousands of pounds per year by simply switching suppliers. But it’s not just about costs. By choosing the right travel partners that have modern technology and marketing support, they can become an extension of your business. This saves time and ultimately provides a better service to clients.

I hear a lot from travel agents about how frustrated they are with existing suppliers. The same issues come up time and time again. As part of good management, it’s essential to keep reviewing supplier relationships to make sure they are offering you the best value for money and the best service both pre and post booking.

Audit all the way

Carry out a supplier audit on a regular basis. Consider everything from preferred flight, hotel and tour operators to printers and marketing agencies.

Long-lasting partnerships should be valued but do not become complacent. Keep an eye on new companies entering the market who may be able to offer better prices and more support to your business.

Travel agents are the lifeblood of many travel businesses and new players are coming into the market despite the recession. These companies are keen to gain market share and will be snapping at the heels of some of the established operators. They want your business and will bend over backwards for you.

Flex that commission

One important question to ask is: does a supplier offer an option for you to set your own profit margin?

With air fares, for example, if flights are offered at net rates agents have the flexibility to set their own commission levels and potentially earn significantly higher margins.

In the current climate this is something to be aware of as it gives agents flexibility and could be the difference between keeping or losing a customer.

Do on online overhaul

Having an informative, well designed and easy-to-use website is an essential part of sales and marketing.

‘Rich’ content in the form of travel guides and destination information can add a lot of value, but it can be expensive and without specialist knowledge of setting up websites it’s hard to know where to start.

Look at how suppliers can feed into your own site to add content, which will be useful to clients and help push your website up the search listing.  

Work with white labels

Look out for white-label solutions, which allow agents to have their own branded website powered by the travel supplier. They can also allow you to offer clients online booking.

This is an example of how working with suppliers can help improve the agency’s online marketing effort but without extra cost.

Tech it up a notch

Working with dated technology is a big bugbear for many people in the trade.

Simple things - for example, a flight search that shows best available fares several days before and after the selected date - can make a big difference.

An agent told me recently she was able to save her client £100 on a flight by suggesting they travel one day earlier. Not all suppliers offer this. Keep an eye on the ones with the best technology.

Switch the slow ones

The best relationships are based on partnerships – with dedicated account teams and a call centre which is easy to get through to and use.

Are you getting the best service from existing suppliers? If calls are slow to be answered and it’s taking too long to respond to specific requests for prices or product, then it might be time to switch.



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