Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2018

'Travel agents aren't dead, they're thriving'


Travel agents have an increasingly important role to play in the industry as online advertising costs increase and security surrounding trips becomes more of an issue, delegates attending a directors' summit meeting were told this week.

Speaking at the event organised by travel industry accountants Elman Wall, industry leaders said travel agents were different to how they were in the past, but said talk of their demise was premature.

Former Trafalgar sales and business development director Ruth Hilton said although there had been a 35% decline in high street agents over the past decade, this was largely due to the consolidation of the two travel giants, Thomas Cook and TUI.

She said although there were fewer bricks and mortar agents, many had become homeworkers, of which there are now at least 2,000, while at the same time calls centres and online travel agents are growing.

"The market is thriving, it's not dead, it's different," said Hilton, who was one of the panellists on an all-female line up.

Even the co-founder of Flash Pack, a travel company for cash-rich, time-poor millennials, which was built on social media alone, said it was one of the firm's aspirations to sell through the trade.

"People are so busy, no one has time to research holidays, it makes sense to move towards agents," said Radh Vyas. She also admitted that 'Facebook is no longer as good as it used to be' for reaching customers.

Amrit Singh, managing director of mainly direct-sell Transindus, said the long-haul specialist was 'increasingly reliant on the vagaries of Google', but she said she was keen to continue working with agents, largely through AITO.

"There are some excellent agents out there who bring in a significant amount of business for us. The clients like that midway contact," she said, adding that they were 'a human buffer'.

However, she said the relationship would only work if agents weren't 'precious' about their clients. She said Transindus would always protect the agent's relationship with their customer, and guaranteed commission on all future bookings.

To other companies who are considering working with agents for the first time, Hilton said: "It can be done, agents can be trusted and they want to work with you."

She suggested operators should 'go narrow and go deep', identifying the best miniples and independents in their area and approaching them first.

Speaking from the audience, Advantage chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said claimed there was a greater need now for travel agents, especially for millennials looking to book.

"We are living in a world of uncertainty, security is an issue and you want the comfort of a travel agent," she said. "Let's find ways of working together in a cost-effective way."

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