Travel Agents

Why are independent agents important in the era of acquisitions?

Daisy Doctor

This month, Brisbane-based independent agency Savenio launched a ‘travel hub’, bringing a with it a more intimate environment for agents to book for clients.

The idea of the hub is to create a place for independent travel advisors to do business, network, meet with their clients and share skills and experiences under one and cooperative roof.

For Savenio General Manager David Brandon, the hub’s focus on independence is crucial following the recent wave of acquisitions which took place in 2017.

See also: Helloworld scoops up Magellan World Travel

So how can agents stay independent and keep an intimate relationship with clients when the industry continues to consolidate?

For Brandon it’s as simple as putting the client first.

“Independence is the key to real success in the travel industry,” Brandon says.

“This means the freedom to really meet the client’s needs. And, in turn, by doing a better job by the client you are creating an opportunity for repeat client engagement which is good for everyone.”

Independence means not worrying about commissions and not being told where to buy from – it’s putting the client first and that means they are more likely to come back, creating more commission for you in the long run.”

See also: Flight Centre acquires Travel Partners in Australia

So how concerned should agents be about acquisitions?

In Brandon’s opinion, very.

“All travel agents should be very concerned.

“If they are in a buying group that is being bought out by a large organisation, this creates less competition, they can expect that that group will eventually demand conformity and with less competition will lead to less commissions.

See also: Luxury Escapes acquires two more travel brands

“It becomes about the wants and needs of the buying group rather than the agent and client relationship. You are going to be pushed into a corner and told ‘you are part of us now’,’ says Brandon.

“Down the line, it makes it difficult to sell the best product for your client’s needs and wants- there is no independence.

So what are the advantages of staying independent as an agent?

“Agents ability to choose the right product for the client and have that at the centre of their work.

“Most agents I know want to have the flexibility to sell the products they think are the best for their clients,” Brandon explains.

So really, how important is it to stay independent?

“Very important.”

“As a full-time frontline travel designer as well as the Managing Director of Savenio, a truly independent travel designer network, I understand  it’s a client based strategy that makes all the difference – particularly in the luxury end of the market.”

“It gives our home-based and new Savenio travel hub advisors the ability to offer choice and flexibility,” Brandon concludes.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

  • robyn

    I disagree, you can still be in a buying group and be under the HLO umbrella and still be fiercely independent, clients are King, without them you dont have a business, i think you will find the likes of HLO are bringing on board product that agents need to do business.
    You can also be just independent, there are alot of very small agents out there doing their own niche thing, dont over dramatise the ebs and flows.

  • Ross

    Great article and i disagree with Robyn.
    A buying group enters contractual terms with “preferred” suppliers and the substance of the arrangement is commercially driven – higher commissions through overrides in exchange for volume. In most cases, vertical integration also means a buying group owns its own product, like Flight Centre’s Backroads and helloworld’s Insider Journeys. Consequently, the network requires agency members to rack preferred, agent sales are tracked against % sales of preferred and is also vested in selling preferred because agency members themselves are provided overrides.
    If buying networks wanted to supply clients with the best product suited to their needs, the buying group would enter into ‘preferred arrangements’ with all suppliers and just sell what suited each client. But this doesn’t happen because of obvious commercial and vested interests. More flexible agents like Magellan and its attempted acquisition by Helloworld is bad for consumers.

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