Last updated November 24, 2023
Your travel agency website is the single most valuable piece of marketing real estate you own.
It's the place people go to learn about the services you provide, the clients you serve, and why they should choose you to plan their next vacation.
Most people make a decision to leave a website in the first 10 seconds.
That’s right, 10 seconds is all the time you have to persuade someone to keep reading. In that amount of time you need to show them how you solve their problem, so they can decide to reach out to you.
The question is, what does your website tell them in those first 10 seconds?
I’ve reviewed a lot of travel advisor websites. Some are good, a few are great, and far too many are, quite frankly, terrible.
I hate to say that, but too many travel advisors either don’t understand the value they provide, or are unable to communicate that value clearly and concisely.
If you’re like many travel advisors, your website probably isn’t generating the number of leads you’d like it to. Many of the leads you do get aren’t your ideal client, and you waste far too much time dealing with bargain hunters and tire kickers.
The best way to change that is to take a close, critical look at your website. I’ve found that most advisor websites fall into one of five categories. Take a look through yours and see if you can identify which category it falls into.
1) The “deal finder”
When an agent believes the value they provide is only in finding good deals for their clients, they tend to default to a “deal finder” website.
These sites are full of supplier offers, special deals, and bargains.
They tend to be cluttered, full of unmatched graphics and fonts, and are unattractive. It is unclear why a potential client should choose this advisor over any other, since most of the website is about the suppliers, not the service the advisor provides or the problem they solve for their clients.
One of my pet peeves is when a “deal finder” website also throws in the word luxury. Luxury travelers aren’t looking for deals, they’re looking for value.
Instead of focusing on the deals and bargains, understand the value you provide and communicate that to potential clients.
2) The “cookie cutter” travel agency website
Agents who are hesitant to niche or commit to a certain type of ideal client end up with a “cookie cutter” website. They’re the ones who plan “cruises, all-inclusives, Disney vacations, custom trips to the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, African Safaris, or whatever else you’d like!”.
Sometimes these agents will declare their specialty, but instead of committing to it they continue with an “although” or “however”.
Something along the lines of “although we specialize in XYZ, we’ll plan whatever trip you’d like to take” or “we do specialize in XYZ, however we can plan any type of trip you’ve been dreaming of”.
There’s nothing wrong with planning lots of different types of trips, but the issue with these websites is that they could be for absolutely any travel advisor. They’re generic, with nothing to help a potential client understand how you can help them with the specific trip they’re considering.
Once you commit to a niche and ideal client, everything on your website should match it. But that doesn’t mean you’re only allowed to plan for that niche or that ideal client.
My agency’s specialty is customized, luxury European itineraries. That doesn’t mean I don’t send clients to other places. I have clients who take cruises, who go to all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean, and who take lots of other types of trips.
But you won’t see mention of any of those on my website. The clients I plan other trips for know what my specialty is, but they also know the quality and value of the service I provide.
That means they trust my research and recommendations, and want me to plan their trip even if they’re traveling somewhere I don’t specialize in.
When a new potential client is on my website, I’m only interested in working with them if they’re planning a customized, luxury trip to Europe. So instead of diluting that message or confusing a potential client, I’m crystal clear about what I do and the service I provide.
I rarely get any inquiry that isn’t for a customized, luxury trip to Europe.
The few that do come in just take a moment to reply with a “thank you for your interest, we specialize in custom luxury vacations in Europe” and a link to the Virtuoso agent finder so they can find someone who specializes in what they’re looking for.
Be confident in what you specialize in and the value you provide, and remember that what you choose to say on your website doesn’t limit the trips you can choose to plan.
3) The “star of the show”
These websites are all about the advisor. They tend to start with a sentence like “I’ve been traveling the world since I was 16.” While that may be an interesting fact, and potentially appropriate for your “about” page, it’s not the way to get people to keep reading.
Most people who come to your site aren’t going to think “Ok, so they know a lot about travel and are who I want to have help with this trip.” If anything they’re going to think, at least on a subconscious level “so what?”.
These advisors have been told that a potential client needs to know who they are, so they lead with information and photos about themselves and their travels.
Before a potential client cares who you are, you have to prove to them that you can solve the problem they have. Your website needs to be about them, not about you.
4) The “mine in name only”
Most of the time a “mine in name only” website has been created by either a host agency or a travel advisor website software. It has an advisor’s name and contact information, but not much else to differentiate it from every other website provided by the host agency or website provider.
The result is a generic site, with a few blanks for the advisor to insert their information. And let’s be honest, a potential client can tell.
There’s nothing to explain how you solve the problem they have or why they should choose you over any of the thousands of other advisors out there. These sites often also contain some type of booking engine.
While it seems like it would make life easier to use a website provided by a host agency or travel website software, it actually makes running your business more difficult.
Potential clients will rarely reach out, because they click away from your site as soon as they land on it. There’s nothing there to encourage them to keep reading.
My biggest issue with these sites (aside from the generic, uninspiring language) is the booking engine.
No travel advisor should ever have a booking engine on their website!
Take a moment to think about why a client would come to you. It’s because you offer a personalized service that they can’t get through an online booking platform like Google or Expedia.
If that’s why they’re coming to you, and the first thing you do is offer them a booking platform similar to Google or Expedia, why would they consider using you? Instead they’re going to close your site and book through one of the larger booking engines.
Another drawback of these sites is that they often have a large header image that dominates the top section. The area that shows on the screen without scrolling is “above the fold” (a holdover term from the days when most people read physical newspapers) and is the most valuable real estate on your entire website.
When that area is occupied by a generic image it is wasted. No matter how beautiful that image is, it does nothing to help a potential client understand the value you provide, or make them want to reach out.
If you have a site provided by your host agency it’s time to up your game with a custom website and copy created specifically for you to attract your ideal client.
5) The “wordy”
If someone opens your website and the first thing they see is a paragraph, they’re probably going to click away. In a time of short attention spans and soundbite news, a paragraph is something that most people don’t want to deal with.
Wordy websites tend to have a lot of words, but don’t really say much. It’s both an art and a science to be able to be concise, and it’s a skill that many travel advisors don’t have the time or inclination to master.
Travel advisors excel in describing beautiful locations, majestic vistas, and soaring cathedrals. But describing their services and the value they provide in a handful of words? That’s not their forte.
You need descriptive words, and lots of them. They’re the key to being found by Google and other search engines. Once a potential client is hooked and wants to know more, you need to be able to provide the information they’re looking for.
But the top of your homepage isn’t the place for that. Instead, it’s the place to state, clearly and concisely, the problem you solve and the value you provide.
Be clear and concise, not cute, clever, or circumlocutory (another word for wordy, see what I did there?) and you’ll find that more potential clients engage with your website.
The Bottom Line
If you identified your website as falling into one of the categories above, don’t worry! Only about 5% of the websites I review don’t fall into one of these categories.
Most advisors don’t know why potential clients aren’t coming to them from their websites. Now that you’ve identified the potential reason, you’re able to start taking action. Step one is understanding who your ideal client is, and using the words on your website to speak directly to them.
Are you ready to attract more of the clients you want to work with so you can run a profitable, successful travel business? If so you’re in the right place. Start by getting your free, personalized travel marketing roadmap.