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Resources and Toolkits Working with travel agents and wholesalers

Hello, my name is Jane Ross, Founder and Director of The Culture Farm, a business specialising in arts marketing and cultural tourism.

In January I had the pleasure of writing a blog for Regional Arts Australia on how art organisations could start tapping into cultural tourism. The focus of that article was product development and marketing directly to potential audiences; for this article, I wanted to provide some detail about how to develop an arts experience that can be distributed by travel agents and travel wholesalers.

Working with travel agents and travel wholesalers can be a great way to get targeted reach to potential customers. There are opportunities to work with the industry domestically and/or internationally. It does take time; generally you should allow yourself up to 3 years before you start seeing real results, but in the longer term for some organisations it can be very rewarding and effective.

As a broad starting point:

  • Participate in some of the seminars and workshops that state or national tourism bodies (both government and peak industry bodies) offer; that will start giving you a taste for how this side of the industry works and whether it’s right for you!
  • Do some research into visitor markets coming to the state as well as your region, you can find this data on the corporate websites of the State Tourism Bodies/Organisations. Explore both domestic and international markets, and audiences including what their motivation for travel and what sort of experiences they participate in when they travel.
  • Talk to your local tourism body or visit their website – they should be able to give more detail on domestic and international tourism audiences in your local area, they might also be able to put you in touch with some locals attractions who are already working with travel agents and wholesalers.

As you start to become more aware of the above, start thinking about your own experience:

  • Consider what audiences would be interested in what you have to offer, and whether they travel for it. Use your research findings to help inform this process.
  • How long should your experience be? Remember, often your experience will be one item in a full itinerary, so how long might visitors be able to stay with you?
  • How regularly can you offer your experience? Often, unless you are dealing with a niche provider, a travel wholesaler or agent will want something that is offered regularly, ideally daily, so that they can confidently offer it to potential customers and easily load your experience into their CRS system. Festivals and events are a little different - there are some travel companies that will promote these less regular events, there are also some that might build a tour around them. The travel industry is big so it’s worth spending some time on finding the right agents/wholesalers for your experience/product (there is a note about this below).
  • How will people get to your experience?
  • Do you need any special catering eg. vegan, kosher, halal food?
  • Do you need a translator?
  • What is the best price point? Compare your experience/product with similar products on the market. Also, be aware that when you are working with travel agents and wholesalers you will need to build in commissions. The commission price will vary depending on whether you are targeting domestic or international tourists. Think of the commission as a fee for service ie. getting the travel industry to promote/market on your behalf to reach potential audiences, and ultimately to sell your offering. You will only need to pay commission when your experience is sold.
  • Once your experience is ready, test it with some industry professionals by getting them to do the experience; seek their feedback and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Think about how you are going to promote your experience to the industry, and what tools you will need to give them, so they are equipped to sell your experience. You will need some enticing, informative copy, clear pricing, T&C’s, and some compelling photographs and video content to appeal to your audience.
  • Consider how travel wholesalers or agents will purchase your experience/product. Given the volume of requests agents and wholesalers receive it is unlikely they will phone to book your experience manually, most prefer if they can do this online via a booking system that is compatible with their own so they can book in real time.
  • To start introducing your experience to the market you will need to find the right travel distributors to help you sell your experience/product. A good way to do this is to visit trade shows eg. the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) where you have multiple appointments to showcase your experience/project and meet potential distributors. Look at some of the experiences offered by distributors that might seem complementary to your potential offering – for example Luxury Escapes have started offering experiences, Red Balloon also offer experiences as do the Viator stable of brands – these are just a few examples.

If this seems daunting, and initially it can, some introductory seminars and reading will definitely help demystify this part of the travel distribution network. Chatting to some organisations that are already involved can also really help.

Thanks to Chris White from Visit Victoria.

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Photo by DJ Paine on Unsplash