Chairman of AITO Agents, Oliver Broad, tells Which? what he thinks of its advice to consumers to haggle with travel agents...
"Do us all a favour - stop telling consumers to haggle! I urge Which? to learn a little more about our industry before they start advising clients on what they should and shouldn"t do.
I sit here surrounded by piles of new agency agreements, a 15-page form on Flight Plus, complaints from clients about APD rises, and a frustrated sales team rushing around trying their best to help us to survive.
Our government categorically stated they would help REDUCE red tape and SUPPORT the SMEs of the UK.
Therefore, how helpful is Which?"s report advising clients to haggle with travel agents? This is exactly the kind of attitude towards our industry we are trying to avoid.
Did Which? investigate the costs involved in running a high street agent? Did Which? research the huge difference between customer service provided online compared to face-to-face, or over the phone, with an agent? Did Which? take time to listen to our side of the story?
It is sad to see that what I thought was a well-respected organisation, and one which prides itself on impartiality, has clearly not done its homework.
It seems the research that they did do concentrated on just five travel companies - the biggest ones.
I have worked in this industry all of my life (at Robert Broad Travel, a member of AITO Agents), following in my father"s, uncle"s and grandfather"s footsteps. We invest heavily in our staff and our brand, at the same time battling every day with the "big boys" of the industry. You wouldn"t go into a solicitor"s and expect to haggle over their rates compared to those of an online "no win, no fee" company, so why bully us travel agents in the same way?
I am sure many would agree that the expertise of an AITO Specialist Travel Agent is worth much more than a basic website listing. Making a small saving on a holiday simply cannot be compared to the value of face-to-face, independent advice. Thankfully, as AITO Agents we have access to an enormous range of specialist holidays and travel experiences - many that are not available online!
I look forward to hearing from Which?, and would welcome them with open arms should they wish to come and experience the reality of working in this industry for themselves."
Friday, April 27, 2012