For years, people have been predicted the demise of the travel agent. This speculation has intensified over the past couple of years with the growth of new distribution channels like the Internet.
And yet, everything that's happening points to one thing: the agent is king. Thomson is at the forefront of the major companies which are prepared to pay over the odds to buy travel agents so they can secure distribution on the high street.
Now, British Airways has caved in to pressure from agents and pushed up commission to 10%. Despite needing to cut costs, the airline knows it cannot afford to alienate the guys on the high street.
Meanwhile, Carlson Leisure Group president Mike Batt has told how US agents, far from losing business to the Internet, are actually using it to enhance and improve their sales (see page 5).
Of course, some agents will go by the wayside. But we live in a highly competitive environment and some of the poorer performers in all areas of the industry will fail.
As we prepare for the next century, it is quite clear there is plenty of room for good travel agents - however many different forms of distribution are available to the consumer. That's good news for you - it's also good news for us as we will continue to keep you informed of everything that's going on in the industry.
Jeremy Skidmore - editor
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