Tourist offices should look at building stronger relationships with travel agents for the benefit of both parties.
Speaking at the Association of National Tourist Office Representatives joint seminar for tourist boards with ABTA, Knock Travel proprietor Doreen McKenzie said local travel agents can offer overseas visitors good advice on local attractions and make the relevant bookings too.
McKenzie, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, said that overseas tourist offices must make the effort to contact agencies in regions that are popular with their own tourists while domestic tourist offices must help educate agents about local attractions.
She said: “Any business that allows us to grow our companies and provide more growth in our various areas is welcome. There are many ways of working with travel agents the process is two-fold.”
She added overseas tourist boards should consider advising their own country’s residents of using a British travel agent when visiting the UK, adding: “Travel agents provide information for any visiting tourists in their local areas from hotels and car hire to excursions.”
However, in order to ensure travel agents are able to do this well, UK tourist boards must work with them to ensure the agents are well educated about what their local area offers.
She said: “Working hand in hand with the local tourist board, travel agents can be trained in the attractions of the area. Even though they may live in an area they don’t know what a visitor will want to see.”
She added the best way to do this is by keeping in regular contact with agents via email while CDs and DVDs are also a good way of getting information across to the agents in question. Most importantly they must remain in contact.
McKenzie said: “Travel agents can meet someone from the tourist board and there’s no more contact they feel very alone so be a friend.”