Agents 'at a dead end', says trade association chief

Agents 'at a dead end', says trade association chief

Agents' focus on product and bookings has left them at a dead end and they must re-focus on clients to survive, according to the head of the Dutch travel trade association.

Frank Oostdam, chairman and managing director of the Netherlands association of travel agents and tour operators, the ANVR, said: "Agents focus only on the most boring things - the product, the booking."

Speaking at German trade show ITB in Berlin, Oostdam said: "The agent business model at the moment is at a dead end.

"In a commoditised world, the agency channel is too expensive. Agents have to connect with the consumer."

He insisted: "I believe in the travel shop." But he said: "The agent has to concentrate not on booking but on transaction with the consumer.

"Agents are too product oriented. They have to disassociate themselves from product.

"They need to see product as a tool to connect with the customer. Let the tour operator deal with product. Agents should focus on the personal, on direct contact with the individual."

Oostdam said: "Buying patterns are changing. Consumers are changing. Technology is changing. The industry is changing, and the economic crisis is accelerating the changes.

"Most companies go bankrupt because they do old things, operate an old model. Nostalgia is not a durable business model."

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