Travel agents are likely to become an even more important distribution channel in future, according to Sandals Resorts International executive chairman Adam Stewart.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Stewart said the Caribbean resorts operator had seen “massive growth” in trade sales as holidaymakers turned to agents to navigate the complexities of travel under Covid restrictions.
He said: “We’re seeing travel at large move heavily through the trade. We don’t see [trade sales] diminishing; there will be more through the trade. We are doubling down. We want this relationship [to be] bigger and stronger.
“We are a company that has always believed in the travel agent. We’re very proud to have this continued relationship now and into the future with our agents.”
Stewart said future plans for more facilities at Sandals and Beaches resorts would only increase the need for an agent to guide holidaymakers through all the elements offered at its properties and for “somebody they can trust” to book their trip.
He said: “The more complicated your product is, the more in demand the travel agent becomes. We’ve always been complicated. Put Covid on top of a complicated product, and you have lots of features and amenities and all these travel restrictions and things to know.
“We don’t plan on making resorts that have less amenities and features, meaning they’re going to take servicing. By our way of thinking, the agent becomes more and more important in our distribution [rather] than less. There’s only so much the internet can do.”
Sandals has always worked with the trade and understands the value of agents, said Stewart, who said the strong relationship stemmed back to his late father and founder of Sandals, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
“My father was such as fan of the travel agent industry for building Sandals and the company that we became long before the internet became a thing. Our company, our family, appreciate, respect, and truly understand the value of the travel agent in the ecosystem of travel,” he said.
Stewart added that a “bunch of new technology” would be developed and rolled out over the next 12 months that would make working with Sandals easier “in a way we’ve never done before for the travel trade community”.