TV presenter Eamonn Holmes says the Covid-19 crisis has reinforced his belief in the value and security of booking with travel agents.
“Travel agents are amazing professionals who have an expertise and that’s why I want to use them,” he told Lucy Huxley, Travel Weekly editor-in-chief.
She spoke to the presenter on a Travel Weekly webcast after he praised the travel agency sector on ITV’s This Morning programme last week.
His comments had been warmly welcomed by travel agents across the country, many of whom used clips of his comments on their social media channels.
In the webcast, Holmes said he has continued to use agents over the years as he is busy and cannot see the benefits of surfing the internet to book flights, transfers and hotels.
“My father had this saying…‘it takes a priest to say mass’. You have to be an expert in your own field,” he said.
“Do what you do and let others do what they do.”
He recalled the heyday of travel agents in the 1970s and 80s, remembering many people who left school with the ambition of working in a travel agency.
But as more people began to book their own holidays, he saw the “decimation” of the sector.
“Now we are in the pandemic, how many other people are wishing they had booked through a travel agent?” he asked.
“They’re left high and dry. This [independent booking] is all fine if everything goes well. It is not fine when it does not go well.
“You’re hanging on the phone for hours and hours, waiting for a phone to answer in some call centre somewhere, to be answered by someone who is not interested in your dilemma or answer your question in a specific, bespoke way.”
He said he is happy to pay a little extra for the “expertise and service for something that just makes my life easier”.
He thinks other people will now agree and say they prepared to pay that for “someone who will look after me, someone who will be there at the end of the phone”.
“This [pandemic] has reinforced my belief…I love that whole service,” he said.
He highlighted how he wants to trust an agent who can find the best deal and recommend hotels, resorts, restaurants, airlines and excursions.
“That’s their contribution to my otherwise boring holiday. I will just end up doing nothing, sitting by the pool,” he said.
“I want to tap into their expertise. These guys are the experts in that field, so why not use them? We’re not experts, we’re naive.
“For most of us to remember to take our passports, the right currency, or do we need visas…it is asking an awful lot. We are innocents abroad.
“It is better to be in the club with travel agents instead of outside on your own.
“I feel safe and sound and content in the knowledge that a travel agent has done the footwork [and] the groundwork for me.
“There are lots more people who have had their fingers badly burned; it’s a complicated business going abroad.
“I really want someone there, looking after my interests.”
He highlighted how agents care about their customers, adding: “They are ‘people people’…they know their customers rely on them.
“For me the past, the present and the future is travel agencies.”
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