Gary JacobsWith the number of travel agents on the high street in decline, it is even more important that retailers give customers reasons to book.

A study by marketing communications firm Fox Kalomaski Crossing, which analysed data across the sector, shows the number of UK agents has fallen from 8,465 in 2005 to 7,013 in 2010. Together, Tui Travel and Thomas Cook now control 27% of outlets and their reputation and service has helped them maintain sales in a difficult economic climate, according to a Mintel study.

The findings also showed a third of adults believed online travel companies were always cheaper than high street agents. Here, Fox Kalomaski Crossing chief executive Gary Jacobs offers some tips on how independent agents can boost sales and stand out from their rivals.


Agents must ensure their websites are visible and differentiated from those of competitors. Similarly, look at what your rivals are doing in store and in their marketing. If they are doing the same as you, then change your approach.

Warm welcome

Some consumers, particularly the more mature and affluent, warrant being warmly welcomed when they come into your shop. Take some tips from the hospitality sector. How about offering customers tea or coffee when they come into your branch and giving them travel magazines or newspapers to read while they wait.


Consider offering a specialism to stand out in a crowded market. It doesn’t matter which sector, but to be seen to be better at something than your competitors will give you an edge.


Product knowledge, whether it’s through fam trips, e-learning, training or experience, is important to make customers feel confident that what they are buying from you is right for them. Keep abreast of industry and destination news.

Added value

It might sound like a cliché, but go that extra mile and look at giving your clients added value, such as chocolates in their hotel room or a door-to-door transfer service.


Build a relationship with your client. Customer satisfaction is often derived from how you get on with your customers and how much interest you take in their lives. Product knowledge isn’t always the holy grail; your attitude to clients is also critical. Make sure you know your customers and target your offers and marketing appropriately.