Having a trusted travel agent will become as much of a status symbol as having a personal trainer, according to the former boss of pioneering online travel agency lastminute.com.
John Bevan, who became European chief executive at Gold Medal and Travel 2 parent dnata Travel last November, believes the UK market will follow trends he witnessed in the US.
Prior to taking over at dnata, Bevan was based in Miami where he ran specialist gift token firm Spafinder, while previously he had been consumer brands managing director at lastminute.com for four years from 2004.
Bevan tipped the UK market to shift towards the US model, where clients look to agents, particularly homeworkers, to deal with the details of their booking.
“Go to the US and talk to people, even young people, about booking travel and they will say ‘I get my agent to do that’. It’s the equivalent of having a personal trainer.
“Independents and specialists are doing amazing business, it’s incredible. A lot is driven by all the noise on the web. People don’t have the time to sift through the options.
“The OTAs are all going after market share; there is going to be a massive fight online. So the opportunity is to convert people trying to do it themselves online and being disappointed.”
Bevan said figures from market research firm Euromonitor suggested the rise of online in travel had plateaued and could even be turning back towards offline.
Speaking ahead of a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast, Bevan assured trade partners they had nothing to fear from the group’s B2C brands. Dnata Travel also owns Travelbag, Travel Republic, flights specialist Netflights and online discounter Sunmaster.
Bevan said: “We compete against them. Sometimes agents have a quote from one of them that they want us to beat, and we will.”
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