THE OFFICE of Fair Trading, which is determined to right all the things that it believes are wrong with the travel industry, made a long overdue decision this week.
It gave ABTA the green light to punish travel agents who tell customers to pick up brochures from a competitor’s shelves.
The main, but not sole, culprits of this disgraceful practice are call centres. Most high street travel agents accept that alternative forms of distribution are a fact of life, but it’s below the belt when clients are actively encouraged to use a retailer but take their business elsewhere. It’s not far off from encouraging theft, because there is a cost to the agent – he or she is punished by operators who won’t send out more brochures and consequently bookings are lost.
And how unprofessional in this supposedly customer-focussed environment for anyone to say: “Look, I can’t send you a brochure, but if you just pop along to Fred Bloggs Travel, you can see the hotels on offer and give us a call back.”
It’s as bad as a high street retailer telling someone to pop along to a competitor and use their telephone to call back and make the booking.
Nobody minds healthy competition – in fact, good retailers thrive on it – but let’s play fair.
Jeremy Skidmore – editor
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