Travel agency network Advantage is quizzing tour operators on their direct-sell tactics as spiralling discounts leave agents unable to compete on price.

The problem could force more agents to shun operators in favour of dynamic packages, said Advantage commercial director Julia Lo Bue-Said.

Advantage commercial director Julia Lo Bue-Said: direct-sell tactics could force agents to shun some tour operators“This is not about trying to catch operators out – it is to make our partnerships with them work,” she said. “We have commercial deals agreed but sometimes operators make it impossible for us to sell them because of their direct discounts.”

The consortium has sent out a questionnaire to the 120 preferred suppliers of the Triton Travel Group asking whether the same discounts are available to agents and consumers, the average percentage discounts available, and if they capture addresses of customers in resort.

It also probes operators on whether they pay commission on all supplements and if they print direct phone numbers in brochures.

The operators have been given until today to respond. Advantage will go back to operators, particularly if the results don’t tally with members’ experiences.

“We’re not naive; the market is difficult and everyone is trying to maintain their share but there are sometimes fundamental reasons why we can’t sell an operator,” Lo Bue -Said added.

Already 60% of operators have responded, most claiming they do discount direct but that they also offer enhanced opportunities for agents to sell them.

Some suppliers claim agents will have to adapt because discounting is unlikely to stop.

Seat-only specialist Freedom Flights managing director Paul Moss said agents had to use dynamic packaging to compete. “Agents have to fight back because it’s going to get worse.

“The more operators try to sell direct online the tougher the competition gets online, and the more they have to discount the less competitive the agent will be. Agents cannot give away more than their commission.”