TTC Director Martin Alcock writes One Last Thing column in TTG

TTC Director Martin Alcock recently wrote TTG Media’s One Last Thing column.

05 May, 2022 Updated 05 May, 2022
2 min read Posted by Martin Alcock
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Martin recently wrote TTG Media’s One Last Thing column. You can read the full article here.

If you were looking for a Saturday job in Newcastle in 1996, there was only one place to be. DJ Sports – name changed to avoid getting into any bother – had it all. A decent hourly rate. A generous staff discount. Even its name was cool as the trainers in the winder.

Unfortunately, I got rejected for a Saturday job at DJ Sports and found myself across the street at its arch-rival, which we’ll call Second Sport. Second Sport was everything DJ Sports wasn’t For a start, DJ Sports was always first with the latest releases. The people of Newcastle wanted Nike Air Max and Kickers. We could only offer them Asics or some Hi-Tec Silver Shadow.

And in DJ Sports, you were browsing to a backing track of the freshest chart hits, like N Trance and Coolio. Second Sport’s tape deck was dominated by a Geordie with a penchant for power ballads – let’s call her Maureen.

My Saturday shift soundtrack was a soppy mush of Celine Dion, Michael Bolton and Curtis Stigers. Not exactly the music of athletes. Respite came only when the cassette finished while she was closing a sale.

Because when Maureen was in the sale zone, she was a force of nature. And when it came to selling add-ons, she was magnificent.

The shelves behind her till sagged under the weight of ancillaries. Sprays for your suede. Dubbin for your leather. Spares, polishes, creams, foams and sponges. She was on a mission to get one add-on into every basket, and she made it look effortless. She was paid handsomely for her skills too, supplementing her hourly wage with a fair bit of extra commission.

Years later, I learned from Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, that this was called The Contrast Principle; once a customer agrees to buy the big thing, the price of an add-on seems trivial in comparison. Maureen didn’t need to learn from books though. She ran on impulse. By this, I mainly mean she was spontaneous and intuitive.

I was reminded of Maureen’s lessons in human psychology when listening to the latest round of travel company earnings calls for the first quarter of 2022.

Airlines, cruise lines, tour operators and OTAs all seemed to report a consistent theme – that ancillary sales were through the roof, from speedy boarding, airport parking and room upgrades to spa treatments, restaurant vouchers, tours and activities.

Normally, customers would buy these kinds of extras closer to departure or even in resort. Right now, travel-starved holiday bookers seem willing to spend on them at the point of sale.

So make sure your travel business has access to a range of ancillary products and services. They can improve your customers’ experiences, diversify your income streams, and add some additional margin to each sale you make. And remember: If you’re not selling those ancillaries to your customer, someone else will.

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Martin Alcock
Martin is a director and one of TTC’s owners. He is a prominent travel industry commentator, regularly sharing his opinions to travel industry conferences and trade publications.
View Martin's profile
Martin is a director and one of TTC’s owners. He is a prominent travel industry commentator, regularly sharing his opinions to travel industry conferences and trade publications.