Trade body Better Escorted Tours plans to establish a panel of expert agents to gain a better insight into the sector as it reports a rise in trade sales.

The group’s six supplier members reported a 2.3% rise in sales of escorted tours between January and November 2011, but within that, trade sales were up by 28% on the previous year, which chairman Paul Melinis partly attributes to the creation of Best. About 20% of members’ sales are through the trade.

The group hopes to have 2,000 agents registered by June, up from its current figure of 1,500 agents.

The expert panel will be used to inform members on trends within the sector and ensure their products meet customers’ needs. Melinis said: “The expert panel could tell us, for example, whether there is more demand for longer-haul touring products, and help us pick up on trends.”

Best also aims to bring out half-yearly reports to analyse members’ sales. The first of these is likely to be in July and will cover the January to June period.

Best was set up in January 2010 by escorted touring specialists to promote the sector to the trade. It has six supplier members – Collette Worldwide, Page & Moy Travel Group, Shearings Holidays, Titan Travel, One Stop Touring Shop and Wendy Wu Tours – and expects two more to join this year.

The news comes as the group unveils further training events and plans to revamp its online training modules. Earlier this year Best launched a new trade website, It is holding three bowling events for agents in April and May.