By Eytan Magen – Managing Director of TAMAR Mediterranean Mototours ltd.
For an SMB paving it way in the oceans of international motorcycle touring marketing this question has been out hovering out there since day one. While branding, reputation and client awareness take time and money, finding the right established partners can be for some, the difference between survival or even success, and failure.
While ‘on Line’ has clear and apparent advantages to a young touring SMB. It is at a very low ticket to create your initial presence and have to potential to reach the full potential of the market worldwide. You can create a maintain an image with limited resources. And you can build a niche business without being afraid of lack of potential clients.
Alternatively, referrals from tour agents can give you the much-needed credibility and professional image once you have convinced the agent of your ability to provide quality dependable services. However, the remains the need to convince such agent of such abilities a task that may be a hard task if the agent is doing his job properly.
While contemplating these dilemmas I am wondering if this is not the real challenge that travel agents are facing these days. Where can they find their added value to remain relevant for both tour providers and tourists alike in a ever diminishing market being dominated by online.
Over the years I have found that the smaller the niche the less likely you are to find a specialized agent able to properly address your niche market. The agent tries to cater to the largest clientele he can acquire and thus does not target inherently specific specialized niches. Moreover, selling a niche product requires expertise and understanding of the activity in order to sell its intricacies.
Going back to motorcycle guided tours and adventures I have that there very few agencies who have branded themselves and tat have the ability to send Motorcycle guided tours. These are usually the exception and not the general rule and many a time they will become an agent for one of the large companies in the market forgoing the ability to work with any other company.
Lately a new kind of player is arising in these touring products marketing arenas. Portals, or online agencies that pride themselves about working with everyone. These “online agencies” attract on line traffic that enables them to come up high or first on search engines and thus by cooperating with them a niche touring SMB can bring himself to the front of the line with a commission-based fee only. However, you are packed I with the crowd, so it will be hard to impossible to rise above unless you are paying to be promoted. Another issue is that the “big boys” don’t use these portals thus you will be branded small fish by the mere registration to one of these portals.
There are 3 important conclusions I would like to stress: 1. New SMB while may use agencies or portals as the case may be on there way to establishment, must consider on line marketing as a core competence of their business and rapidly develop their own digital assets and image on the way to success; 2. Travel agencies who have been losing ground to the digital marketing arena must develop specialties and focused markets where there marketing power and prestige is an asset for SMB touring companies either in their initial stages or even further on when a relation has been established and the agent can create volume for the SMB; 3. There is a new kind of travel agency on the horizon – the specialized focused portal. If you are an agency at war with declining business maybe this is your solution for survival.
The writer is a manger and an entrepreneur the founder of TAMARBIKES a leading boutique motorcycle touring company and the pioneer of motorcycle touring In Israel.