Published on Friday, April 27, 2012

Haggle with agents? Do us a favour

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."


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  • Brought on by certain companies?

    Sorry folks but surely this has been brought on by certain companies on the high street. They do charge differing rates on line and in shop, and advertise that they are not interchangable.... but go instore the day before their sales targets are in and it's a totally different story. How do I know this, because I was a customer where the store staff were acting like double glazing salesmen dropping the price in order to get me to book. I hadn't asked for the discounts - if fact I'd gone in to book a holiday, which was no longer available. Two points on other comments - ?expert advice? Maybe in a true Travel Agent, but in a tour operator outlet it's often hard to get honest up to date advice as the advisors get fobbed off with the same info that customers do on the phone. Would I haggle with a solicitor? Of course I would. I doubt if anyone doesn't want to know about any bundled or special services. I'm quite sure that the big boys in the world do not pay rack rate for anything.

    By sonja cameron, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • haggle with 'Which' ???

    Everyone who subcribes to which should they be encouraged to haggle ??? I wonder how far would they would get.

    By david trunkfield, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Hypocrites

    I just tried ringing up and haggling for a discount on a new subscription of Which? They didn't sound too impressed.

    By Sam Collins, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Which? Travel responds

    In response to Oliver Broad's comments and to those made on the original Travelmole story, we would like to emphasise that we did in fact devote a section of the article to the customer service provided by travel agents. We fully support Oliver"s point that there is a difference between customer service provided online compared to face-to-face, or over the phone, with an agent. The media coverage has focused on one particular aspect of the report, whereas the full Which? Travel article presents a balanced view. Under the heading "Special agents", we made this point: 'Although going online can often be the cheapest way to find a holiday, talking through your criteria with a travel agent could help you make a more informed decision.' We pointed out that agents will be able to offer advice about aspects such as cheaper days to travel, added extras like departure taxes, visas, and health requirements. We also made clear that they would be able to use their personal experience to suggest resorts or hotels that were best suited to the customer, and we highlighted their ability to offer added value, specifically mentioning one agent who threw in airport lounge access at no extra charge. As a consumer champion, our role is to represent the consumer's point of view. This article was an impartial and accurate representation of our research that was carried out from the position of a consumer. When we reported that when we asked agents if they would match or beat the online prices we found many of them were prepared to do so, we are simply passing on an experience that might be of use to consumers. Best regards The Which? Travel team.

    By chrispgray gray, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • My inbox is full...

    Thanks to all those who have emailed me support for this article, its great to see at times like this we can all pull together and make ouor voices heard.

    By Oliver Broad, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Balanced and realistic

    I'm not sure if Oliver read the offending Which article, but I found it surprising balanced and fair. I think we should remember that they are a comsumer organisation and be realistic about them suggesting how to make savings. They DO make the point about the extra value of the customer service offered both in-store and over the phone, as evidenced by the following quote. "The good travel agents - either in a shop or over the phone - will take the time to not only get you the cheapest deal, but also the most suitable one. They can steer you away from the cheap hotel that"s seen better days or gets overwhelmed with scampering children. They should highlight added costs and help sort out essentials, like visas. Plus, they can offer financial protection that you may well not get by putting your own package together online. ...isn"t it worth paying a little extra to have someone else hunt down the best deal and sort out any future problems?"

    By Antony Bradley, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Expertise is worth paying for

    I couldn't agree more with Oliver Broad. There are many specialist travel agencies offering an extremely high level of service that is worth paying for. In an increasingly annonymous and impersonal world face-to-face communication is more valuable than ever. Fortunately, there are many people out there who do value the expertise provided by a high quality travel consultant and enjoy dealing with people rather than just relying on unverified opinions to be found across the internet. Talking with an agent who really understands the holidays they are selling is the best way to make sure your precious holiday time is everything you want it to be and more! If you just want to book a hotel, yeah do it yourself on line and more likely than not you'll get a the cheapest deal. But if you want to plan a complex trip or are looking for real inspiration then a specialist agent is invaluable.

    By Alastair Donnelly, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Which? Feature an Opportunity

    Oliver - first of all, I understand how you feel but life is not fair. Get over it! Secondly the findings of the report as I understand it are that travel agents can sometimes match or do better when pricing similar products on line. Surely then the report will be potentially driving business into your shop? This will no doubt give you the perfect opportunity to show these potential clients how much better it is to book through you, even if they eventually pay more. As a specialist direct sell tour operator we are constantly being challenged by consumers to match special deals on website and yes, it is a challenge, but one we rise to and embrace as it allows us to point out the many advantages of booking with us. Clive Stacey -

    By Clive Stacey, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Well said

    Isn't it just so irritating when so-called experts give us the 'benefit' of their 'advice.' Which? clearly don't understand this industry and have obviously not bothered to research the subject beforehand. There seems to be an arrogance "We're Which? we can't be wrong" (I doubt if they even know what AITO means). I for one am dying to hear their defence!

    By Keith Standen, Friday, April 27, 2012

  • Quality, not price matters!

    Quote from John Ruskin, the great Victorian Philanthropist and artist : "It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better." I use this quote on the bottom of my business emails and it certainly makes people think!

    By Derek Barnes, Friday, April 27, 2012

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