Operators that don't sell through agents lose out on bookings, says Amanda Matthews, managing director of Designer Travel
Over the past few weeks, many of us have had something to say about recent changes to a certain red tour operator’s decision to go direct.
It got me thinking about where client loyalties lie these days. Are travel brands as important as senior managers and owners think they
are? Are clients loyal to a company name or to the individual that actually manages and looks after their holiday bookings?
I am sure there are arguments for and against, but I, for one, firmly believe that the larger percentage sits with the person that deals with the clients directly. I can support this using real examples.
When we take on a homeworker ?who is known locally and has ?regular customers, many of their ?loyal customers find out where they have moved to and move their bookings to stay with the individual. Why? Because they trust them.
Another example is when you use someone brilliant from a travel supplier and they move on to a competitor. The chances are that your business will move with them because you trust them to look after you.
Great travel agents are worth their weight in gold. They go the extra mile for their clients and are often the ones that clients turn too, particularly if something goes wrong overseas.
A good agent is relied upon to make holiday recommendations for their clients, as they know them, understand them and are aware of their likes and dislikes. They know where they like to sit on the plane and they know what kind of resort would suit them.
It’s all about trust and relationships. Our repeat booking level is high, and many of our clients recommend us to their friends and family. I am not being naive when I say there are still lots of clients who want to use a good travel agent.
This was the case in a survey Saga Holidays conducted and was one of the reasons they became trade-friendly. Some of the company’s existing clients expressed a preference to use a travel agent, so to satisfy their needs, Saga changed its strategy. The company has come at the trade from a different angle. Saga had everything to lose in terms of paying agents commission if its existing customers booked through an agent.
But the plan has paid off, as Saga has attracted lots of new business as a result of using the trade.
Many operators that aren’t trade-friendly – and we all know who they are – always focus on the percentage of direct business, but what they always fail to see is the overall slice of business that they are missing out on.
If businesses looked more at the overall client base, the percentage ?of direct sales may alter, but the size of the pie will be much bigger.
But for some direct-sell-obsessed businesses, conceding that overall sales might grow when you embrace the trade would appear to be a cardinal sin.
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