Lockie Kerr, Back-Roads Touring business development manager sets out five ways that agents can maximise their leads

Touring product is evolving all the time and the proportion of UK travel agents booking tours has risen to 38% in 2018 from the 28% recorded in 2015 so there’s never been a better time to be selling in this fast-growing sector.

However, on a visit to a travel agency in the South earlier this year, I witnessed how touring is still being forgotten at the crucial ‘recommendation’ stage of travel consultation.  For me, this highlighted the potential for the sector to grow much further if this mindset changes. Let me explain…

During my time spent at the travel agency, a couple in their mid-sixties asked for some ideas on what they could do for their 40th wedding anniversary. I watched the consultant walk over to pick up brochures from the cruising and beach sections of the office, but no touring brochures were offered. In fact, the office didn’t even have a dedicated touring section. Touring could have been the perfect option for the couple, but a key opportunity had been missed.

Just last week, a couple celebrating their own 40th wedding anniversary returned from Back-Roads Touring’s Flavours of Vietnam tour, and their feedback was amazing. The tour was booked through a UK travel agent who recognised the fact that the tour ticked off many of the couple’s requirements. What if you’re recommending just the one style of touring. Are you giving yourself the best opportunity to secure a booking?

Back-Roads Touring provides a touring option for customers who prefer much smaller group sizes (maximum 18); who like the idea travelling roads that are not always accessible to companies with larger coaches; and are looking for stays in characterful boutique accommodation. In short, Back- Roads offers a unique small group touring experience.

If you attended the Atas Conference in Birmingham last week, you’d have seen another 27 touring and adventure suppliers who offer something different from Back-Roads Touring – whether in terms of group size, tour quality or mode of transport used.

Not all customers are aware of the touring options available. So, as the expert, it’s your role to highlight the options and pick the right touring style for your client.

My top five ways to give yourself the best opportunity to sell a tour:

1. Include a touring brochure section in your office
Display a wide variety of different touring company brochures – not just the most well-known.

2. Include a touring section on your website
I’m amazed how many websites still do not have a touring section. Why would your customers book a tour from you if they don’t know you can sell it? Back-Roads Touring, for example, can offer itineraries, maps, videos and images to help build this part of your site.

3. Run events or experiences
Back-Roads Touring has recently collaborated with selected trade partners to run mini Back-Roads experiences, whereby customers are whisked away in premium mini-coaches to a boutique hotel for afternoon tea. This is just one example of what can be done to support you in demonstrating the touring experience to your customers, though presentation events and holiday shows are other worthwhile options.

4. Ask for help
If you ask any of the ATAS members to help you promote their tours, you will get plenty in return – whether in the form of posters, pull up stands, window offers or social media content.

5. Include a touring option in as many customer conversations as you can
Who’s to say that someone asking about a self-driving holiday in the Bordeaux region wouldn’t be persuaded by a tour if given the option? Back-Roads’ small-group ‘A Taste of Bordeaux’ tour would cover many of the same places, with the added bonus that the transport is taken care of – meaning the customer can take full advantage of all the incredible wineries in the region!