Tour operators were forced to defend their direct-sell strategies after criticism from agents at this year’s Triton Travel Group conference.
Speaking at a panel debate, Kuoni and Gold Medal said it would be naive to ignore the direct market and put the onus on agents to increase their sales with potential direct-sell clients.
Gold Medal head of travel industry sales Lee Marshall said: “We took the decision about 20 years ago to occupy both parts of the market in terms of customers and agents.
“We do not see enough business coming from one channel of distribution. It would be a very naive tour operator that kept all its tour operator eggs in one basket.”
Gold Medal’s direct-sell arm Airline Network has recently rebranded to netflights.com to distinguish itself from its Gold Medal trade brand.
Kuoni sales director Manuel Mascarenhas said it was vital tour operators had a ‘safety net’ to enable customers to buy holidays direct.
He said: “If a customer wants to deal with us we will take the sale, if a customer wants to deal with us through you then we will do that. It comes down to the customer.
“We are not here to compete with you [the travel agent], we are here to support the trade.
“Former Worldchoice agent Andrew Dickson, who now runs consultancy The Wow Factor, said it was up to agents to make a sale when customers tried to use their services before booking direct.
“The sale should have been closed [while they are in the shop] and a reason given for the customer to come back,” he said.