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Saga rivals ready to ‘fill gap’ if agents switch-sell

Cruise lines and touring operators selling holidays to the mature market have stressed their continued support for agents in the wake of Saga’s decision to reduce its trade partnerships.

Saga last week revealed plans to cut the number of agents it works with, prompting Saga Group sister operator Titan Travel to reiterate its commitment to the trade before an announcement that the two brands’ touring operations were to merge.

Despite a subsequent confirmation that Titan would lead the group’s tour operations with a “trade-friendly strategy”, some rivals sense an opportunity among agents who may switch-sell cruises and holidays in response to Saga’s move.

Geoff Ridgeon, head of sales at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “The trade continues to be a very important part of our business, and we are always looking at ways we can evolve to make sure it remains a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Chris Coates, chief commercial officer at Ambassador Cruise Line, said agents’ “important contribution has been paramount to our launch”.

The Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers (Atas) has created a page on its website for agents to find alternatives to Saga from within its tour operator members’ ranges.

Account director Claire Brighton said: “Atas and our members remain fully-committed to the trade and are there to help agents find the right tours for their clients.”

Janet Parton, sales and marketing director at Cosmos and Avalon Waterways, said: “We’ve identified the tours that Saga features and have a number of tours that operate similar itineraries – we’re more than happy for agents to call us with any enquiries.

“The trade has always been incredibly important to our business and continues to be.”

Paul Melinis, APT managing director for the UK and Europe, highlighted the value of agents’ expertise, especially for queries about testing and entry rules.

“There is a great opportunity for travel agents at the moment and for the operators that work with them,” he said.

Riviera Travel also spotted an opportunity. UK and Ireland head of agency sales Thomas Morgan said: “We have a similar demographic. We can definitely fill that gap.”

Channel director Stuart Milan added that Riviera had demonstrated its commitment by expanding its frontline sales team from three to four.

Leger Shearings Group said it “intends to continue to develop our partnerships throughout this important year for travel”. Chief executive Liam Race said the trade was “key” to its growth strategy.

Richard Forde, head of trade sales at Newmarket Holidays, which returned to face-to-face agency visits lat week, said: “Agents are not only advising and assisting customers with securing a holiday, but play a vital role in helping customers navigate the changes in testing requirements for the UK and their chosen destination.”

A Wendy Wu Tours spokesman said: “Our pledge to support agents has never been stronger. Agents are and always will be integral to our business.”

Picture credit: Ruslan Huzau / Shutterstock 

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