An Aito travel agent has appealed to more tour operators in The Specialist Travel Association to consider the trade as a potential sales channel.
Ian Prior, owner of Westway Travel, called for “deeper conversations” between Aito’s core members and its Aito Agents members arm.
Aito currently has around 100 operator members, with 130 brands. Of the 100 operators, 75 are ‘willing’ to work with agents but only 35 do ‘a lot’ of agent bookings and 15 do ‘some’, according to Aito.
Prior said he was keen for Aito operators and agents to explore the possibilities of working together more closely, particularly as many members offer niche trips catering for customers with specialist interests.
Speaking on a panel discussion at the Aito Overseas Conference 2023, he appealed to operators to make agents “an integral part of the association”.
He said: “I believe agents can be an important part of your sales and marketing mix. We don’t have the expertise you have but we have other skills. We can support and manage problems for you. Aito should continue to push the conversation. Please talk to us.”
He added: “I want to encourage a deeper conversation between Aito operator and agent members.
“As an agent, I can talk to clients about operators’ brands. We have to convince some of these operators that we will be around for a long time and they ought to be talking to us.”
Having more agent-friendly operators within Aito – which is owned by its operator members – would also help draw more agents into the association’s Aito Agents arm, he said, adding: “We have got to educate agents on what they are missing out on.”
Chairman Chris Rowles endorsed Prior’s plea, saying: “One of the things about working with agents is that you only pay commission if you get the business.”
He admitted the association should look at ways to work “as one organisation” while also adding that Aito operators should consider working more closely with each other.
“I think there is a lot more business we could do within Aito; is there another Aito operator you could work with? It is happening in a small way but we could do a lot more of it,” he said.