Agents will have to sell more holiday extras and improve customer service to survive tough trading conditions next year, according to a Travel Weekly round-table debate.
Speaking during a VIP trip to Greece, hosted by youtravel.com, agents admitted they would have to work harder to retain clients as margins are squeezed.
Qwerty Travel sales manager Matt Todd said agents would be forced to discount more commission to compete and find new ways to generate revenue such as selling more excursions, airport hotels, attraction tickets, car hire or transfers.
He said: “The only way is to sell extras. The typical agent does not bother [doing this] because there isn’t much money in it – but now this is an opportunity.”
Travel Trust Association director Steve Clark added: “You have to pitch extras to customers at the time of booking and if they don’t want it, pitch again when they pay the balance or when you send the tickets.”
Freedom Direct managing director Nick Jackson said agents often found it daunting to sell extras at the same time as the holiday. He added: “Customers also don’t want to be bombarded, but it’s a case of making the most of every opportunity to hold on to the customer and make extra margin.”
Agents will also need to sharpen their customer service.
Youtravel.com national sales manager Liz Garfield said: “The main focus has to be keeping the customer.”
But A1 Travel managing director Chetan Patel warned this could mean agents choosing suppliers more carefully. “If we don’t feel someone is delivering [on service] they will get dropped. We started off with 13 bed banks this year – but have dropped to six. Next year we will probably go to three or four.”