Do You Use a Travel Agent?
By that I mean do you book a holiday with one? Or do you just use a travel agent as an unpaid source of information about prices and destinations?
The reason I mention it is that the biggest group of independent travel agencies, Advantage, met last week to discuss the woes of the world. And woes the travel industry has. Travel agents have seen commissions cut by tour operators, airlines and now Carnival Cruise Lines has done the same. So they are seeing less money coming in. They are also seeing fewer of us and claim that as many as 50% of the people who visit their agencies come to research and price holidays and travel and then book online, often at a cheaper rate. They complain that suppliers of holidays and travel put cheaper prices on the web, cheaper than they can obtain them from the supplier.
Some are now charging for their services since no commission is payable at all on some services. With rationalisation, there are fewer travel agencies around amongst the chains. And the little independents are struggling to survive in some places they say.
So what is your attitude to travel agencies? I confess that I haven’t bought a service from any travel agency for at least five years but then I’m not typical in that I haven’t had a “proper” summer holiday for over 12 years. We just go away for a few days at a time. But with airlines going bust and weather activity, strikes and volcanic activity upsetting plans in the last year, many are using travel agencies because of the security that ATOL bonding gives them.
Are travel agencies crying wolf? Certainly there are fewer around. John McEwen, who combines the role as head of ABTA with being the chief executive of Advantage said that there are nearly a quarter less agencies than there were just five years ago. Online agencies and direct booking may be eating into the work of travel agencies but there is another “enemy.” Using a mobile phone for web connections and bookings is growing says Google. Last year 6% of all queries were by mobile phone. This year the figure is closer to 20%. In the face of all of this can the travel agent survive?
That’s up to you and me. If we don’t use them they’ll disappear. But not just for finding out about places and fares. We have to book so they can earn money.