What someone does in one role may have no bearing on a future position, says Miles Morgan, managing director of Miles Morgan Travel

It is fair to say this magazine has dedicated many a column inch to the relationship between travel agents and their tour operator partners over the years. And it’s a topic that has again been in the news recently as the old chestnuts of commission cuts and direct marketing come up again.

Giles Hawke has certainly been in the line of fire over his new role at Cosmos and what this could spell for us agents.

But I feel it is very important for people to see the difference between individual people and their job. They are very different – and I should know.

Business decisions

A good few years ago, when I was sales director at Thomson, I was the bad man, cutting agents’ commission. Was that my decision? Of course not. In a large company, things like that never are.

Did I do it deliberately because I was anti-agent? No, of course not; it was a decision deemed correct at that time. Did this decision influence my future decisions? Again, no; you make business decisions at a point in time based on information available. On each occasion, that decision can and probably would be different.

Back in 2005, despite being the most-hated man in travel for a while after announcing the Tui UK cuts at the Abta Convention in Marrakech, I was nevertheless proud of the way we dealt with it. Live on stage in front of 2,000 travel agents is certainly not hiding.

The reason I was proud is that the decision had been made and was communicated clearly to all. Agents could make up their minds if Thomson still worked for them commercially at 7% and make plans accordingly.

Slippery eels

I now sit firmly on the other side of the fence and watch this area with huge interest. My pet hate for us agents are those slippery eels of operators and suppliers that make all the noises about being the agent’s friend but behind the scenes have a different agenda.

I’m sure agents read with interest Travelopia’s plans to court the trade, ahead of the sale of Tui’s Specialist Group. Many will be all too aware of some of those brands, such as Hayes & Jarvis, offering direct-sell prices in the past that agents just couldn’t compete with.

Differential pricing through direct channels is one telltale sign; another to watch out for is contacting clients direct.

Holidaymakers put trust in us agents to place their all-important booking with a supplier. Why therefore do suppliers deem it OK to contact clients direct, excluding us in this communication?

Just last month a client came into one of my shops angry because they had received a piece of direct mail from a company I won’t name. We were very surprised and confirmed we had not passed their details to the company. We gleaned that the company could only have got their details from the client’s visa application processed via them – this is red-card behaviour to my mind.

So please don’t confuse people with corporate decisions. And most importantly, beware the suppliers scheming away behind your back.

We work with a huge range of great suppliers with true partnership relationships; they deserve our support.