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Trust me, I’m a travel agent

TRAVEL agents have hit back at research that says more
than half the country lacks confidence in them.

Ranking agents below lawyers and taxi drivers, only
48% of respondents to a Reader’s Digest survey said they had a great deal or
quite a lot of confidence in the profession while the rest said not very much
or none at all.

Taking the flak for problems with
operators and the expectation of an encyclopedic knowledge of resorts are among
the reasons agents think public confidence in them is divided.

Bath Travel managing director Stephen Bath said: “The
only person the customer sees in the flesh is the poor old travel agent.”

For some complaints he said: “It’s not the fault of
the agent but the operators we recommend. We don’t have any control over them.”

Independent Options development director Sue Foxall
agreed saying the public confuse operators and agents.

But she said the biggest battle is with the consumer
press. “I don’t think the media do us any justice with programmes such as
Holidays From Hell.”

Travel Weekly columnist Maureen Hill from Wessex World
Travel said agents are used for their expertise, but operators need to work
with them to prevent customers going away and booking direct.

Danny Rogers, associate editor of Marketing, said
agents’ ranking in the survey was affected by the 13 professions they were
pitched against, including nurses and firefighters.

“Agents should make sure they add value to the
customer experience, are well informed and knowledgeable. The responsibility of
the employer

is to make sure retailers have the resources and
training to deliver,”

he said.

First Choice retail director Cheryl Powell said since
September 11, Iraq and SARS, it has upped its staff training to deal with angry
clients.

The findings come on the back of Reader’s Digest
research published in the May 1 2003 issue of Marketing that names Thomson
Holidays and British Airways as the most trusted holiday company and airline
brand.

Virgin Atlantic’s vote of 9%
and EasyJet’s of 6% ranked below BA’s 44%. Thomas Cook’s 14% and Airtours’ 9%
were below Thomson Holidays’ 20%. The survey questioned 1,631 British readers
and 27,692 respondents Europe-wide.

 

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