Operators have been urged to capitalise on Virgin Holidays’ decision to become direct-sell-only after 30 years of selling through the trade.
The long-haul specialist last week said the decision to stop selling via the trade reflected the brand’s aim to “own the customer”. Agent sales represented less than 10% of Virgin’s business.
Virgin Holidays managing director Mark Anderson said: “It’s all about customer retention. Offering the best service wouldn’t be achievable without owning the customer data, through the booking and pre-departure experience.”
Agents are now calling on the likes of Travel 2, Gold Medal and Kuoni to fill the gap in the market.
Gary Lewis, managing director of The Travel Network Group, said he wasn’t surprised by Virgin’s decision, adding that other companies, such as TTNG member Premier Holidays, understood “the value of independent retail distribution”.
Nick Harding-McKay, managing director of Travel Designers, said: “There will be a gap in the market and it’s a great opportunity for someone like Kuoni or Travel 2 and Gold Medal and maybe even Caribtours. They need to seize this opportunity and run with it.”
His comments came as Kuoni reinforced its commitment to the trade with a bluntly worded ad in this week’s Travel Weekly which said: “Well that’s provided more racking space for companies that support the trade.”
A Kuoni spokeswoman said it was a “bold step” to make but the trade team wanted to “grasp the opportunity to show agents that instead of thinking Virgin Holidays, they can think Kuoni”.
Derek Jones, Kuoni’s UK managing director, said Virgin Holidays’ move was “helpful to Kuoni” and insisted that travel suppliers didn’t have to be ?“trade-only to be trade-friendly”.
Andy Freeth, managing director of Travel 2 and Gold Medal, tweeted to say he felt a “surge of growth coming”. He vowed both brands would remain “huge supporters” of the trade.
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