The roles and names of Travel Agents are continually evolving.
From Travel Designers to Lifestyle Planners, the modern-day agent has new platforms, clients and strategies to ensure both consumers and companies are happy, and no one knows this better than Wendy Wu Tours Founder Wendy Wu.
“Travel agents many years ago had the monopoly on the market. When the internet came out, agents were required to know everything about every destination, and to be able to compete!,” she said.
“For some years, there was a thought that they would become redundant, or just the fulfillers of internet searches.”
“Things have changed and whilst today agents still compete with the online players, there is a growing market need for travel agents with specific knowledge for itineraries that are harder than flop and drop or multi country.”
So just why are Travel Agents still so important? For Wu, it’s their skillset.
“Travel Agents provide a huge level of service and security to travellers.”
“They are able create itineraries tailored to their clients’ needs and make recommendations based on market trends and value for money,” Wu added.
After an earlier shake-up in the industry with the arrival of OTAs, Travel Agents are now in the midst of a boom in popularity, and Wu pins this down to their ability to shape holidays around the contemporary traveller.
“Travellers are time-poor, as life in 2017 is so busy, so more and more people are turning to retail travel agents and homeworkers to arrange their precious, sometimes, annual, holidays, to save them the time of arranging it themselves, and also make sure that an expert has planned their trip.”
“Holidays are also getting more unusual, travellers want new experiences, and to go further off the beaten path, to explore more areas and enjoy more experiential holidays – a travel agent has the knowledge that would otherwise take you days and days of research, plus has often visited the area,” Wu said.
“People are comfortable using an agent for things like their mortgage and their insurance, why not use an agent to arrange your travel too!”
As well as this, Wu added that agents will “save you time and money – sometimes they even have access to exclusive offers, for example at Wendy Wu Tours we often give travel agent priority access”.
“The agents also have experience in the areas that you’re going – even if it’s your first time, it’s not theirs!”
So enough about how integral agents are to travellers and companies alike, how are they changing their offerings?
According to Wu, it’s all about options.
“Agents range of options is getting broader and broader as tour operators offer a huge range of product, so in that sense they are shaking up their offerings by being able to provide more specific, tailored holidays.”
“Many agents are also going online, with their own websites.”
Going forward, Wu said she sees “agents becoming more specialist in the future – they might be a China specialist, a honeymoon specialist or a family specialist. Either way, they will be experts at what they offer”.
As well as this, she said “the number of homeworkers will continue to grow”.
“Similarly to our company, agents will be more mobile and able to book online, or otherwise on-the-go through trade websites.”
“The overwhelming majority of our business is still through travel agents, and the number of bookings through the trade grows every year – which is why we have a travel agent website and support the trade through head office level consortia marketing, as well as local area activity.”