Comment: Is trade-only now a trend?

If something happens once, it can be an isolated incident. Twice can be a coincidence. Three times starts to look like a pattern, so am I safe in declaring a trend is emerging of operators going trade-only?

Most suppliers hedge their bets between direct and trade channels or at least top up a predominantly agent business with a smattering of direct bookings. Conversely, Virgin Holidays went as far as turning its back on the trade altogether in 2015.

But lately we’ve seen Carnival Cruise Line, Funway and now Major Travel make a big thing of switching off direct sales to focus on those through trade partners.

Admittedly, direct business for the three companies was minimal, but nailing their colours firmly to the agent mast will still be welcome news for travel agencies across the UK.

Nothing is more sure to fill Travel Weekly’s Talk Back inbox with angry emails than when suppliers undercut agency partners with direct offers on their own websites or through sister brands.

The new owners of Major Travel, the most recent trade only convert, are confident they can grow their business by putting their agency partners first, believing they can provide the best customer service.

You will find this theme of firms genuinely taking a customer-first approach, rather than just paying lip service to it, weaved throughout this family holidays-themed edition of Travel Weekly.

Many families may need an extra level of advice. Sometimes that can mean encouraging them to book something outside their comfort zone but which promises lifetime memories. So the service you provide could be the clinching factor in securing not only a lucrative booking but also appreciative and loyal customers.

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