Indispensable travel agents

Amid the debate over the necessity of travel agents in the modern-day high-tech world, Middle East still holds on to its travel and tourism partners, while European countries follow suit.

Eugene Ko, Marketing Director, Phocuswright

Booking travel has become increasingly complex. This is not even so much to do with the ‘pandemic effect’ anymore – there is a colossal amount of information and inspiration available online, through countless different sources.  Although most people do enjoy an element of research and choice when booking travel, using a travel agent can eliminate the need for extensive online trawling, as the agent can handle all the details and bookings on behalf of the customer. This convenience saves time and effort, especially for complex itineraries or group travel. Certainly there seems to be a consensus that the quality on offer from retail travel agents has increased in recent years and one reason is that they can now offer ancillary extras for the in-destination experience.

 

Gareth Matthews, Chief Marketing Officer, DidaTravel

Gone are the days when travel agents booked flights and hotels via a green screen.  Distribution companies and intermediaries have long since evolved to offer far more advanced retailing technology, giving agents the ability to find personalised deals for customers. Travellers are returning to the experience of booking travel in a physical store.

 

Janis Dzenis, Director Communications and Public Relations, WayAway

Whilst there is always a market for retail travel agencies, lots of people still want their online version and sometimes the best value can be found for the more adventurous types searching for cheap trips, discounts or to purchase with loyalty points. It doesn’t have to be all about the big three OTAs or the high-street retailer, there is something in-between.

 

Craig Everett, Founder and CEO, Holibob

Agents have upped their game a lot overall to remain competitive and one very successful strategy has been to start cross-selling or including in packages all the little in-destination extras such as activities, tours and theme-park tickets. But not only do you need to offer this, you need to have an intuitive and integrated booking flow that agents can easily use.

 

Sami Doyle, CEO and Co-Founder, TMU Management

About two years of chaos that COVID unleashed on travel plans for people was a bit of a wake-up call for anyone who would book direct, suddenly discovering that customer service was non-existent, cancellations and refunds were hard if not impossible, and in some cases bankruptcies were leading to people not getting what they had paid for.

 

Koert Grasveld, Vice President Payments, TerraPay

Not only does the agency have to take payments from the consumer but then they have to settle with suppliers, perhaps many of them just for one booking, via a B2B payment too. Technology that used to be available to just the biggest players, for example virtual credit cards, is now available to even independent agents working from home.

 

Juan Socas, Commercial Director, PriceTravel

Travel agent never went out of fashion in Latin America, with estimated 75 per cent of travel sold face-to-face or by telephone. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Latin America does not have a sizeable middle class and that all the travel sold is cheap, local trips – that’s far from true. There is a huge demand for international travel to the US and Europe.

Compiled by Dr. Shehara Rizly

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