Here at Travel Weekly, we try our hardest to keep up with the industry, but sometimes we need a bit of help from industry head honchos.
In relation to the changing face of agents, we’ll take as much help as we can get.
As of late, the role, titles and challenges of a travel agent has been evolving.
From Travel Designers to Lifestyle Planners and everything in between, we’ve made it our mission to find out exactly what the contemporary travel agent does, and how integral they are to the industry.
Speaking to Travel Weekly, Travellers Choice Managing Director Christian Hunter said agents have to prove their salt to the modern traveller.
“Travel agents have no intrinsic right to exist, like every other retailer they must demonstrate their value to consumers.”
“The fact that Australian travellers continue to seek out the services of travel agents shows that they recognise that professional consultants offer specialist knowledge and skills, are highly efficient and provide ongoing support that is priceless,” Hunter said.
“Travel agents are also cost-effective and offer an unrivalled level of transactional security,” he added.
For Hunter, the reason agents’ popularity is growing can be pinned down to their expertise, which far surpasses online competitors.
“Australians now have a variety of ways in which to book and pay for their holidays, and each distribution channel has its strengths and weaknesses.”
“Some offer competitive prices, others provide convenience – travel agents are the only option that offers both of those elements as well as expert advice, ongoing support, transactional security and the opportunity to forge a long-term relationship with a person who has your best interests at heart.”
“It’s an attractive proposition, especially to people who are time-poor and facing financial pressure – i.e. just about everyone,” Hunter said.
In terms of agents’ shaking up their offerings, Hunter said Travellers Choice in particular are changing the way packages can be bought by consumers.
“The recent agreement between Travellers Choice and online travel agent TripADeal – which allows people to book and pay for online holiday packages through a physical travel agency outlet – is the perfect example of how travel retailers are shaking things up.”
“We have had an exceptionally positive response to this initiative because it melds the strengths of our two organisations, offering consumers great value, outstanding flexibility and a comforting level of security. Individual travel agents are also looking at new ways to improve their knowledge and to market their skills, particularly in the digital environment.
“Our members are certainly embracing social media to expand their client base, but they are also using these forums to share among themselves vital information, advice and insights.”
“And we are seeing more agents than ever before undertake online training programs that give them their sort of skills and knowledge that consumers are willing to pay for.”
Looking to the future, Hunter said that while he doesn’t see “dramatic shifts”, he encouraged agents to continue evolving the way companies support members.
“I don’t believe we will see a dramatic shift in the role of the travel agent.”
“But we will see continued evolution in the way that retail travel networks support their members and enable them to offer new levels of customer experience.”
“In particular I think we’ll see groups become ever more sophisticated in the way they gather and share knowledge, not just about products and services but also about marketing strategies, technology and consumer trends.
“Agents should be asking their networks what they are doing to ensure these changes are taking place now.”