Over the past decade, the inexorable rise of Amazon had analysts lining up to predict the imminent and inevitable demise of the independent bookseller.
Yet in December last year, the head of the Booksellers’ Association cautiously mooted the possibility that there could be more bookshop openings than closures in 2017.
With Ryanair aiming to become the ‘Amazon of travel’, and Google also making a serious play for the package holiday market, no doubt the naysayers will be lining up again to predict the end of the travel agent.
But as the Association of Atol Companies’ Alan Bowen points out, just because a big brand offers a product, it doesn’t mean that customers will automatically choose to book with it.
Like booksellers who are immersed in the products they sell, good travel agents can draw on expertise and first‑hand knowledge to advise their clients and reassure them that their money is being spent wisely.
Just look at Thomson agent Rebecca Withers, who will be able to sell Walt Disney World with even more confidence and insight having experienced it first-hand with her family on a prize trip to watch the finale of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway last weekend.
Package holidays are sometimes dismissed as low-margin ‘bucket and spade’ commodities, but that belittles the complexities involved in getting a booking right.
Whether selling books or holidays, a real understanding of how to avoid a bad purchase – or improve a potentially average one – means there will always be a place for a trusted expert.
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