Home – New Forums Tell me straight… Are the days of travel agents numbered ?

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  • #968330
    travelmaster
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    Hi everyone.
    Yes, I am a travel agent since 1983. I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. But none so significant as the rise of internet bookings. But the other day I read an interesting article in SMH written by a stockbroker. It seems their industry is also fighting with the net. So here is my question to everyone – do you think that industries like travel will soon become “internet only” or do you think that there will always be room for travel agents when it comes to booking travel. And if so, what do you think should the role of a travel agent be in the future.

    rgds to all

    #1032524
    Hugh Thyer
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    If all you do is book tickets for people then your days are numbered.

    But if you provide added value that people don’t get then there will still be a place for you.

    And if your competition is still stuck in ‘booking only’ mode then it could be an opportunity to dominate the market with your extra services once they go under.

    #1032525
    FionaFell
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    Despite my lvoe for the internet I do not trust website booking to work out interconnecting flights, transfers and time zones all in one go, let alone across multiple providers.

    If you can still make all that stuff happen and give suggestions and advise around things to do or not do when I arrive at my destination you still have me won over.

    SUMMARY: You have a bright future, especially if I get to travel more often.

    #1032526
    travelmaster
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    Thks..
    Yes, I could not agree more with your responses, in fact the recent events in Europe – volcano ash, in Thailand – trouble on the streets, etc etc have clearly shown, that if you have a professional “watching over your holiday plans” things may be re-booked relatively easily. After all that’s what we do all day every day. Good luck if you booked on the net – a few hours on the phone to an airline and in the end you get disconnected.
    But it seems to me that all marketing by the likes of Flight Centre or airlines like Jetstar focuses on price and price only. The question then is – would you (and by this I mean anyone reading this thread) be willing to pay a little more basically for a knowledge of a professional.

    Rgds

    #1032527
    mexham
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    I have always and will always continue to book my own travel. I much prefer to book my own accommodation, transfers and flights. That way I am totally sure everything is correct and I know exactly what is going on. I feel when there are too many people involved there is the chance of mistakes.

    I’ve seen situation where travel agents have booked wrong dates and times for clients, and yet the blame goes back to the client because the agent claimed they were responsible for checking all their tickets/bookings were correct. I thought that’s what you were paying the agent for to ensure it was all correct.

    Anyway unless an agent can provide/offer something that I can’t get already get on the internet I don’t see any point in using. Most of the time I have checked prices with a travel agency, I have been able to get a better price directly through the airline myself.

    I think there will always be a market for travel agents though, for people that don’t have the time, or know how, but I do definitely see a decline in demand.

    #1032528
    travelmaster
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    Thks for your replies everyone.
    I can see the opinions are divided. The problem with travel is, what travel agents sell is a very “intangible” product. I mean after all the only thing we sell is our knowledge and experience. I accept that there are all sorts of agents out there, one chain in particular, probably the most visible and recognisable one and which constantly advertises for new staff due to super high staff turnover rates. Their draw card for new staff is: “no experience necessary”.
    I think the best way to compare different agents is – would you organise a nice wedding reception at McDonalds ? Probaly not. But if you’re after a quick, cheap meal then it’s a place to go to, I agree.

    rgds

    #1032529
    Dardee
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    It’s like any service industry. If you try and compete on price you will go broke because there will always be someone cheaper. The critical element is providing a better service than someone else and being able to get that message across in any advertising material. Essentially you need a point of difference that separates you from the rest of the field and makes your services valuable to anyone travelling. Make sure that anyone thinking of booking online is aware that they do not get your expertise when making a simple online booking elsewhere.

    #1032530
    Burgo
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    A simple answer to your question is NO WAY.

    Travel agents, at least those that know and understand what good customer service is about, build up a customer base of regular very happy people.

    I used a travel agent to do my bookings etc last year for an overseas trip. Couldnt ask for any better service. Mind you it took visits to about 6 other local agents before we found one that understood what we were trying to do, and because of her recommendationds we had a fantastic trip and did things we would normally not have done.

    This year we sort her out again to find she had left the industry, so we ended up going on line to secure a booking for our next adventure. In saying that I dont think it was really something we needed a travel agent for.

    However our adventure after this next one will require a travel agents expertice for us to get the maximum value for our travelling dollar.

    So unless your excellent customer service suddenly takes a dive ‘Sheellberight”

    #1032531
    travelmaster
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    Burgo, post: 39113 wrote:
    A simple answer to your question is NO WAY.

    Travel agents, at least those that know and understand what good customer service is about, build up a customer base of regular very happy people.

    I used a travel agent to do my bookings etc last year for an overseas trip. Couldnt ask for any better service. Mind you it took visits to about 6 other local agents before we found one that understood what we were trying to do, and because of her recommendationds we had a fantastic trip and did things we would normally not have done.

    This year we sort her out again to find she had left the industry, so we ended up going on line to secure a booking for our next adventure. In saying that I dont think it was really something we needed a travel agent for.

    However our adventure after this next one will require a travel agents expertice for us to get the maximum value for our travelling dollar.

    So unless your excellent customer service suddenly takes a dive ‘Sheellberight”

    Burgo,
    Thks for this comment. I do agree, simple holidays and bookings can be made online, no probs, but just as an example of what can go wrong, we have some clients who booked bits and pieces on the net for a trip to Thailand. Well guess what, they have no chance of getting any refund right now. But for whatever reason, whenever we try to explain these potential dangers, we almost always get “nothing ever happens to me” responses. I just don’t get it.
    Almost 90% of our business is either repeat or recommended clients.

    Burgo, I am really keen to find out what in your (and others too) opinion is it, that travel agents should be offering their clients other than “just make a booking” or “offer a great customer service”, but an opinion from a customer point of view. Or what was it that you did not get from the 6 agents who did not get your custom.

    Rgds

    #1032532
    Burgo
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    Well as I said we eventually found an agent , who was able to understand just what we needed. I hadnt really worked out what we needed, but had a rough idea what could be done. A few simple questions, discovered I enjoyed Zoos and we wanted to land in Manchester. She chatted on about Singapore, Oh I was there 42 years ago. Been to Honkers 37 years ago. So you can see we are seasoned travellers hahahaha.
    She took us by the hand and led us on a discovery tour, and we decided Singapore would be interesting. That settled, she came out with what to see what to do and where to stay. we felt comfortable with what she had suggested and let her do the bookings. To us Singapore was a surprise for she had got us into a fabulous hotel that fitted us, not over expensive and not too cheap, great location. Had suggested a couple of tours which we did. The Zoo and Botanical gardens where worth the trip alone.
    So her knowledge of the place, the hotel and the tours were just fantastic, so the familiarisation trips you guys do in this case really paid off.

    Our next adventure is just a cruise as ‘shewhomustbe and I havent been on a ship in almost 45 years, so I was able to book on line. This is for our 40th wedding anniversary, but I’m trying to keep it quiet.

    The adventure after this will be Canada + where ever else our travel agent suggests we go to.

    #1032533
    travelmaster
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    Thank you everyone for your comments.
    I can see that some of you clearly recognise the value of having a professional looking after your travel plans. So if you have a trusted agent – stay with them. And if they are a “soloist” running their own business even more so. It’s ery much in their interest to look after you. They know what you like and they will look after you if they are good. At the end of the day it’s as simple as this – sure it’s possible for me to do my own BAS online but I would never attempt it myself and leave it to accountants, it’s possible to look at my lease documents but I would never attempt it and I leave it to my solicitor and so on.
    My theory is that travel has become far too accessible product on the net and the perception has been created, that there is hardly anything to it.
    I agree it’s the case with anything “simple” but boy, do I see some doozies
    created by “the system” which allows anyone to “give it a go”. And then, guess who gets the call to deal with the problems.

    Rgds everyone
    VL

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