On the face of it, the economic problems that surfaced towards the end of the last decade are fading into the distance, but the present climate still poses a number of challenges for small businesses in a variety of sectors.

Travel firms are proving no exception to the rule, although some are thriving despite all that’s been thrown their way.

Today, whatever demand there actually is for holidays will be for low-budget breaks and flights, while many holidaymakers will choose to stay closer to home by visiting a big city or seaside resort in order to save a few pennies. Even though the UK economy is growing again, many people are still choosing to be more careful with their money when it comes to holidays.

Dealing with it
Running a start-up business irrespective of sector isn’t easy, especially where marketing is concerned. One of the biggest trials is using social media effectively – 42% of small travel firms taking part in a recent survey found Facebook the most challenging social media channel of all.

Facebook is seen as a great platform for travel firms, as it has room for photographs of destinations, allows for easy interaction with customers and is a handy vehicle for customer reviews. It shows up some of the limitations of other social sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, while there’s more room for original content on there too.

Getting around social media is the first step businesses should take when putting marketing in place. From there, campaigns can grow while getting in touch with customers will be far easier.

As shown in this case study, Virgin Holidays show how Facebook can work well for companies within the travel industry. By using a constant flow of engaging and varied content from competitions, news and promotions, they allow a personalised user experience whilst still promoting their holidays on offer.

Training trouble
Another challenge faced by travel SMEs is staff training, something that 35% alluded to. Getting the right staff is hard for any business, as can budgeting for training. Even though it can be expensive, training is important, especially in travel where it’s essential to have knowledgeable staff who can identify great destinations and the right kind of accommodation for customers.

Training can be done on the cheap if there is someone within your business who already has extensive knowledge of all aspects of the travel industry. Setting aside an hour or two each week for training could help to pay dividends in the long term.

The other issues raised by travel companies were productivity and general ease of doing business. As far as the former is concerned, performance analysis of staff is useful. Those who face customers and clients directly need to be monitored in order to see if they’re doing their jobs in the right way.

This could be made possible by having time-management software to log what employees are doing every day. Also, it’s worth trying to get everyone in your business involved in how it’s run – marketing, accounts, research are all areas where everyone can contribute.

Doing business
When it comes to doing business, guessing what customers will want when going on holiday can be extremely challenging. Should the economy recover sufficiently enough to boost peoples’ disposable incomes, then the demand for holidays abroad and luxury breaks may begin to rise again.

At the moment, breaks in other parts of the UK will seem more alluring to the savvy holidaymaker. Travel and accommodation are both likely to cost less, while the bother of changing currency is done away with. Also, events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are sure to boost domestic tourism.

Identifying trends is a must for any travel firm. Checking what customers want the most over one-month, three-month, bi-annual and annual periods is useful for knowing what products to push first.

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