Comment: Connect with customers

The annual Abta Travel Convention is always a great opportunity to fire up your enthusiasm for this wonderful industry we are privileged to work in.

This year’s theme, ‘Truth, Trust and the Expert’, was intended to do just that and there was plenty of food for thought in the first day’s business sessions.

While Abta’s Holiday Habits survey reported that the percentage of people booking with agents was down by two points, it found the millennial generation is increasingly turning to agents for advice (page 6).

There was more good news for agents. Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy said intermediaries are information aggregators who generate trust and keep industries honest.

Liverpool University’s Dr Paul Redmond declared travel experts have a future despite competition from social media influencers, review sites and artificial intelligence, providing they focus on innovation, creativity and enterprise.

His forecast was not so sunny for accountants, surveyors and translators, all of whose jobs, he said, will be better performed by robots in the future.

IBM’s Sofia Natal urged travel companies to reinvent themselves into brands that people “want to belong to”. She cited John Lewis, which is inviting customers to stay the night in an apartment kitted out with the retailer’s home furnishings so they can live the brand.

I’m not suggesting agents invite customers to stay the night in their shops – that would be weird – but there’s nothing more powerful for driving trust and loyalty than connecting with customers and making them feel like they belong when they purchase a holiday from you.

Easier said than done, you might say, but I’m sure even the most veteran of Abta attendees will return to the UK motivated to turn words into action.

Comment from Travel Weekly October 11 edition

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