Agents have an “irrational fear” of the internet which has been heightened by the recession, TTA Worldchoice managing director Simon Hargreaves has said.

Speaking at a Chartered Institute of Marketing Travel Industry Group event on May 11, Hargreaves said agents should recognise their own skill sets, but not be afraid of trying something new.

“Retail agencies have a big fear of the internet and this has [increased] in the recession,” he said. “It has gone from a rational to an irrational fear.”

Agents are very good at building relationships with customers and spending very little on marketing, he said. However, he urged agents to make use of the internet without trying to compete with the big online travel agencies.

“Make use of the internet to make local customers aware of you,” he said. “It should be used to attack the slice of the market that wants expertise.

“Agents can also be scared of using the phone because the person isn’t there – but you have to use the phone as a second sales channel.”

Commodity travel such as low-cost flights will be purchased online, he added, but complex and expensive holidays will still be bought face-to-face.

The TTA will hold its first joint conference with Worldchoice in November.

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