The boss of Miles Morgan Travel says he has “never been more optimistic about the future” for travel agents, thanks to the expertise and reassurance they offer to consumers.
Speaking at the Travel Weekly Future of Travel Spring Forum, Miles Morgan, chairman of Miles Morgan Travel, said holidaymakers value the advice of agents because of the complexity of travelling amid the pandemic and confusion over financial protection.
“We’ve seen customers already returning to us that we haven’t seen for a few years; we’ve seen brand new customers,” he said.
“People can see why they should use a travel agent, not only for the expertise, knowledge and advice, but the reassurance they can give and the fact that they’re not going to sit trying to get through to a company on the phone, not get their emails replied to.
“They can just stroll down the road when we reopen on April 12 and see somebody. I think that will make a massive difference.”
He remains confident despite the fact that several non-travel high street brands have gone out of business.
“Over the last few years, we almost have become the destination shop – people are coming to the town specifically to see us, to make an appointment, because they value what we do and our expertise,” he explained.
“If the rest of the high street is decimated, and a lot of it might well be, I’m still not concerned. I’m still confident because I know people will seek us out and find us if we’re good enough.
“And that applies for any travel agent up and down the country. If you’re good enough, you deserve to do well.”
Debbie Goffin, sales and marketing director at Premier Holidays, agreed, saying: “What has definitely come out of this [pandemic] is the opportunity for travel agents and tour operators.
“We have certainly seen travel agents coming back to us that had tried to do some self-packaging themselves and realising that they do not want to go into that. They want to book it with a tour operator, where it is all protected.
“There’s a real opportunity for travel agents to capitalise on that with their clients.
However, Morgan said suppliers changing rules and regulations last year had been “probably the biggest challenge of them all”.
When staff came back to work after being on furlough, it took a day of training to get them back up to date with all the changes on policies, he explained.
“Thankfully, this year, it’s much simpler. Suppliers have got their head around what they’re doing, their policies are much clearer,” Morgan added.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive at Advantage Travel Partnership, said clarity for consumers is difficult as there are so many different travel businesses operating in different ways.
However, she said agents can tell consumers that booking a package offers full financial protection, and a human travel agent “will be there for you” and “guide you the whole way”.
Morgan said the problem of cancellations is continuing and some of his customers have had a holiday cancelled as many as four times.
“You should put yourself in the consumer’s place: if I’m somebody who’s had my holiday cancelled three times, will I book it for the fourth time?” he questioned.
“You want to try to hang on to every sale you can at the moment, even though that sale is being pushed back for a future season, even 2023.”
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