Here’s an insider secret about me: I’m a geek. I love technology and gadgets. So, it’s no surprise that when people have questions related to tech, they come to me. Today I want to share some suggestions with you about technology that you need in your travel business.

Before we dig into that, I would like to address the overall state of technology in the travel industry.

I’ve worked in travel for more than 20 years and like many other people, I joined the industry after working in another field. I was surprised at the state of the technology available to travel agents – and honestly found it to be quite outdated.

The reason for this is that for many years there was no interest from the industry in improved technology. They were happy with what they had and didn’t want anything new. Tech companies aren’t going to invest money in systems if the industry says they aren’t interested in it.

So, for years tech for travel agents stayed largely the same.

We are just now seeing an improvement in technology. With the strong influx of new people into the travel industry, I think that trend will not just continue but accelerate. There are a few new products on the horizon that are designed to make life easier for travel advisors. And I for one can’t wait for them!

Regardless of the platform you use, there are several key systems that you need to ensure your business runs smoothly. No one system serves all these needs, so you will need different programs for each.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management): A CRM is a system that allows you to not only store very basic information about your customers (names, addresses, emails, etc.), but also provide details you need in the future. Things like travel preferences, destinations they are interested in, and other information that helps you with both servicing the clients and marketing to them.

Of course, a CRM only works well if you use it correctly. Many agencies use ClientBase (which has been the leading CRM in the industry for years) which has the ability for you to easily store information about client’s budget, travel preferences, and styles – all by just checking boxes. And yet many agents don’t bother to use that benefit. Your client list is the most valuable asset in your business. And the more you know about your clients the more effectively you can serve them.

For many advisors, their default CRM is that provided by their host agency. That works fine as long as you learn how to use it!

Workflow Management System: Any advisor who has been in business for more than a few months will tell you that it is imperative to have great processes in place to service clients from the time of booking through the time of travel. If you don’t, you will find yourself scrambling to provide things for your clients. For savvy advisors, a workflow management system is what is needed to make this process as painless as possible. These systems allow you to have lots of pre-populated information that can be sent out to clients as well as forms you can use to get information from clients quickly and easily. You can send out a form to securely capture credit card information from clients. You can also send out terms and conditions to clients or have them complete forms to give you the information you need. These systems make managing groups much easier as well.

TravelJoy is the system that many of our advisors use, and others use Salesforce or similar applications for this purpose. The advantage to TravelJoy is that it was designed with travel agents in mind.

Itinerary Builder: When you send a quote to a client everything you send them should reflect your brand, so you are reinforcing this is what you designed for them. Sure, you likely had other partners involved in the process, but you don’t want to just appear as a middleman for those companies. Instead, if you use an itinerary builder, you are able to create beautiful documents for clients quickly and easily. There are some DMCs that will provide quotes to you already formatted in these systems and all you have to do is add your logo and send it on to the client!

Travefy and AXUS are the most popular systems used by advisors. Both enhance your brand and reinforce the value you offer clients.

Autoresponder: This is one system that exists completely outside the travel industry and most of the platforms used are designed to work with almost every industry. These are systems like Constant Contact, HubSpot, Active Campaign, MailChimp, and many more. The purpose of these systems is to send out email campaigns to your email list. They also provide a way for you to quickly and easily build your list by offering an IFO (Irresistible Free Offer) that people can opt into, and it is delivered automatically by your autoresponder system. No matter which system you use, the important thing is to use it consistently! Also, do not use the free version of any of them. The free versions often embed ads into the email you send. You might send out a beautiful electronic newsletter only to have it chock full of ads for online travel agencies. Definitely not what you want!

Design System: Even if you aren’t incredibly artistic or creative, everyone needs to have the ability to create basic graphics for their social media or other marketing. You may hire a designer to help with some of this, but at some point everyone will need to generate something that is more than text. The best option for this is to use a system like Canva, which is an online platform that even in the free version gives you lots of tools to generate graphics that look polished and professional. Gone are the days when you needed an expensive system like Photoshop to be able to create basic designs.

The universal truth with all these systems is that they won’t help you if you don’t use them. And you cannot get the most out of them if you don’t really learn what they excel at.

Choosing – and using – technology doesn’t have to be arduous. For many people crowdsourcing information about who uses what is very helpful because it gives you a built-in support system when you have questions or need help.

While it does take time to learn and implement a new system, the right system will pay dividends in how it improves your productivity and reduces stress.