Sarah Longbottom, Travel Weekly editorThe performance of the travel trade was damned as “pathetic” this week by an entrepreneur I spoke to who had recently launched a new product.

Despite offering up to 10% commission, plus training and marketing support, his company found most agents are not really selling the product, leaving the market open to direct bookings.

When agents were asked why, many apparently responded: “No one has asked us for it”.

Is this really how agents think? Given the momentous changes in the marketplace, I would like to believe they can see the opportunities for business in every new product and service.

It is a shame this particular person now has such a negative view of the trade. I know there are many agents who could help change his mind.

The issue of customers booking direct rather than through a travel professional is becoming less of an issue.

In a recent survey carried out by Radar on behalf of Travel Weekly, 88% of more than 400 consumers questioned about their booking habits said they used the Internet at some point when planning a short break or holiday. Compare this with the 34% who involved a travel agent.

On the face of it, this is worrying news. However, there is already a noticeable shift – albeit relatively small at this stage – from using the web to book, towards booking through travel agents.

The Internet offers a plethora of information that can prove overwhelming – and time-consuming – to many users.

After trawling through pages of content, consumers are often happy to pick up the phone and talk through the final stages of booking with a ‘real person’.

In the end, it’s the personal touch that wins.


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