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Published on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Agent's passionate appeal to suppliers: let's go back to the 'good old days'

Cathie O'Dea has worked in the travel industry for nearly 47 years. After a week spent trying to sort out 'issues' with a hotel and two airlines, she took to social media to make a passionate appeal to suppliers to work with agents, not against them. Her words, on the industry's Facebook forum Travel Gossip, quickly accrued likes and words of support and agreement from fellow agents, prompting us to ask Cathie to write a comment piece for TravelMole. Here's what Cathie has to say:

Do you remember the good old days when travel agents were respected by clients, airlines and hoteliers? At one time the reps were at our door on the high street plying for our business.

There are still a lot of really good tour operators, airlines and hoteliers out there that want to work with us because they know how hard we work for our clients. They realise the importance of choosing the right product in the right location, at the right price and our joint objective is to keep the client happy. But that is so much easier when the operators want to work with us rather than against us. We really love those suppliers that go overboard to help us and it gives us real joy and pleasure to work with them in the future. We work together to provide not just the best choices for our clients but also to ensure that together we can go that extra mile to give the clients that special experience.

Sometimes the right product is out there at the right price but there seems to be more and more airlines, hotels and tour operators that make it difficult for us every step of the way. We are working so hard to give them business but when they undercut us and make us step through more and more hoops it feels like we are constantly fighting suppliers on premium rate numbers, sometimes for hours or even days for the simplest things. We have to make excuses and apologise constantly for their actions and rules and regulations and then when the client complains they too often blame the agent which is very hurtful and insulting when some of us have been in the business for decades. They are really not helping themselves by doing this, this alienates us from those particular suppliers and the client from us. This doesn't help us and it doesn't help the clients as they will end up believing we are not acting in their best interests, which is soul destroying when we have tried so hard to sell them the right product. I have lost many, many clients simply because I have been let down by a supplier. On many occasions I have been out of pocket because the supplier just won't give way. Eventually, they will start booking online on unprotected holidays and Airbnbs. None of us want this.

Too many customers no longer value the service that we provide because we are being undercut so much by some airlines and tour operators. We could all make more profit if we worked on a level playing field. Many of them could easily make so much extra for themselves if they sold their product to the customer at the same price as they do to us. If a supplier sells something to a customer, sometimes thousands of pounds cheaper, all it does is create suspicion and lack of trust for that customer. Why are we charging so much extra? Yes, we all know that service is worth a little extra but there is a limit to how much extra they will pay, so please at least give us a chance to match your price and together we can give our clients the right experience. Remember, if we sell that product, they are still using the same airlines and the same hotels so we should be servicing those clients together, not working against each other.

We know times have changed and we are all trying to maximise our profits by cutting out the middleman, but please can we go back to working together? We are all working in the same industry, the industry that we all love. Let's go back to helping each other, enjoying each other's company, let's go back to sharing anecdotes, ideas and stories like we used to, let's respect each other and let's help each other earn a decent living and work together to help our clients and, between us, give them the once in a lifetime experience they deserve. We all need to protect our interests together and unite as one industry to survive. Sharing is caring.

* What do you think? Do you agree with Cathie? Is it time for a change? Is it too late? Please tell us your views by clicking on Post Your Comment below.



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