David Green & Omar Banihani explain the importance of travel agents

G Adventures, Visit Jordan and Royal Jordanian Airlines are hosting the 2024 Travel Agent Next Door conference. TTAND agents will fly on a private, chartered Royal Jordanian Airlines jet to the 2024 event.

We asked David Green, VP & Managing Director, G Adventures and Omar Banihani, Director of Marketing, Visit Jordan why they are investing in hosting TTAND agents at next year’s conference.

TTAND: Despite predictions that travel agents would become extinct, they seem to be more in demand than ever since the pandemic.  Explain the importance of the travel agent to your business.

David: I’ve never bought into this concept that Travel Agents will become extinct. In the same way that people need great real estate agents, they also need great travel agents. Sure, people can do their own research, they can find their own deals, but a Travel Agent does so much more. They are there in the good times, but more importantly, in the times when you need urgent support. When things go wrong, like in the pandemic, consumers could see the importance of having a good travel agent. At G Adventures we provide excellent agent training, a great agent reward and recognition program, have incredible agent sales support and our agent booking platform “SHERPA” is there to provide real time pricing and availability. All of this is in place, because we can’t do what we do without the support of our travel agency community. It’s why we invest so much in a travel agent “first” approach to selling.

Omar: According to a study conducted with MMGY in Q4 of 2016, we found that 51% of total leisure travel bookings from Canada to Jordan came through the travel trade. Meaning travel agencies and tour operators. Compared to other more mainstream destinations, the reliance on the travel trade for Jordan is greater. The reasons why are obvious, Jordan as a destination is complex, the product offerings are very diverse. Travel agents are really good at assisting Canadian travellers through the Jordan trip planning, curating itineraries that work best for their clients and offering them off the beaten path activities that are a challenge to book on your own.

TTAND: Would you agree that the travel agent has become more important for consumers since the pandemic?

David: I couldn’t agree more! I think the pandemic created an opportunity for Travel Agents to shout about their role and how they can help their clients. But people forget quickly, which is why advocacy work is very important. G Adventures are big advocates for the travel agent community. We have always valued the role travel agents play in our business, and we are agent led. Selling group travel can be complex, and our business also focuses on community tourism which needs some explaining. Travel Agents are critical to us, they more than anyone understand the importance of sustainability and supporting community tourism. Travel Agents just don’t sell what their clients think they need; they present options so their clients can make the best choices. Its through these different options that Travel Agents show their real value.

Omar: For us, the importance wasn’t changed pre & post pandemic. It remained important throughout. The one change we found is more young travelers are now booking with travel agents.

TTAND: What is your advice for independent travel agents on staying relevant?

David: Training! Stay up to date with industry news, destination knowledge, know the best deals and communicate with your client base. Don’t be shy! Use referrals and shout about how much your clients love you! Stay close to your suppliers. We value our agency partnerships and we are always open to helping wherever we can. To remain relevant, you need to make yourself indispensable, going the extra mile for your clients will guarantee you their repeat business and their referrals. Working with suppliers that you can trust, like G Adventures will also win you repeat business. This last point is very important, and I sometimes feel that it gets undervalued.

Omar: Travelling with purpose is a big trend now. Incorporating meaningful travel experiences and consuming local goods and services are some of the most important travel trends today. Adapting your travel services and product offerings to accommodate these trends will be important for travel agents. Be one step ahead of the trends and be a trend setter yourself.

TTAND: What do you hope to achieve from co- hosting the 2024 TTAND conference in Jordan?

David: We already have an incredible partnership with TTAND, but there are a lot of agents that still haven’t experienced G Adventures in destination and this is a great opportunity for them to do so. Recently, a group of TTAND agents were in Jordan on a dedicated fam trip and the overall experience was incredible. We received so much positive feedback from those agents about what they learned in destination. I can only imagine the impact we will see when we take another 300 agents to Jordan next year. At G Adventures we love to change people’s lives.

Omar: Jordan is one of those destinations that when you visit it you automatically become a travel ambassador, we want all the TTAND agents to become our ambassadors in Canada. Most travelers go to Jordan expecting Petra to be the highlight, but when they come back, they say the people and culture were the highlights. No matter how much we promote Jordan, nothing beats the first-hand experience in the country. Moreover, a complaint we get all the time about Jordan is “We wish we had more time in Jordan” this is a testament to how historically and culturally rich this country is but also it is an indicator that travel agents need to learn more about Jordan to ensure their clients are spending enough time in destination. And off course the last reason why we want to host TTAND in Jordan is to have fun! I had the pleasure of joining their conference last April in Mexico and I have to say it was one of the best conferences I have attended in years.

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