Comment: Tough times could bring customers back to travel agents

Things are bad. Six out of 10 travel agents said they would consider leaving the industry – and that was before the collapse of XL Leisure Group.

This is a real indicator of how tough business is at the moment.

Indeed, respondents to our Advantage State of the Nation survey cited the economic climate as the biggest challenge the industry faces over the coming five years.

And in a week when global financial systems are jittering, the tough economic conditions can only worsen.

Those looking to sell up and move out of the market probably won’t be able to do so, as there are more travel businesses up for sale than there have been in many years, and there is a lack of capital to secure their purchase.

Such tough times bring about change – the collapse of International Leisure Group in 1991 saw the birth of the vertically integrated model and September 11 2001 prompted growth in the online travel agency model.

Could this crisis in the economy see the birth of a new model for the 21st century travel agent, as TWgroup publishing director Simon Ferguson suggested in his keynote speech at the Advantage conference?

This travel agent offers excellent product knowledge, service, protection and value. And these are the agents that the suppliers will want to do business with – the ones who truly add value.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that, in the wake of the XL collapse, more customers are coming back to agents. So now is the time to seize the moment and tell consumers of the benefits of booking through an agent.

Industry bodies have been slow to get this message across to the consumer market, which is why Travel Weekly wants your views on financial protection as it stands now.

Together we can get that message across to industry leaders.

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