Opinion: Independent agents are integral to suppliers

Female travel sales agent explaining the offer from a holiday flyer to a senior couple in the travel agency.

Last month, we had a chat with Windstar Cruises’ Vice President of Sales Steve Simao about how they’re shaking up their sales strategy to become agent focused.

You can read all about it here.

David Brandon, Founder and Managing Director, Savenio Signature Travel Experiences has penned a response to Windstar’s new agent focused strategy.

You can read his response below.

I started off in the travel industry over 35 years ago in our small, family-owned travel agency in an even smaller town in far north Queensland.

Without the wonder of the internet, we were one of the few outlets for anyone in Ayr who wanted to buy an air, bus or rail ticket.

One of the great things about our travel office back then was that we not only had face to face contact with our customers, but we also had direct relationships with all our suppliers.

These relationships were very personal.

As one of their top selling agencies, we had a personal relationship with Jack McCafferty, the owner of one of the largest coach companies in Australia at the time.

In addition, as one of their first route agencies in Australia, we had a great relationship with Ansett Airlines.

Back then Airlines considered the customer #1, it was about serving their needs via relationships with the supporting independent agents – agents who knew their business very well.

While the world has become bigger and more sophisticated there are some tenets of my old business that still ring true.

My clients might be spread across Australian cities now thanks to the internet, and I’m still often in Ayr, but they all enjoy the personal connection I offer them as a specialist independent travel advisor.

With my personal business largely focused on luxury cruise clients, I completely understand why a brand like Windstar wants to use an agent focused sales strategy rather than the costly “sell direct” business model.

Cruise Lines, particularly those in the luxury end of the business, know the advantage of working with an independent agent.

They can see who is delivering them business and are able to support agents, rather than managing through a third party consolidation.

This gives them the ability to successfully deliver their clients value and the perfect holiday experience.

They can easily build a loyalty base that they can reconnect with time and time again with the agent relationship providing the gateway.

Repeat and referral is king in the luxury marketplace and suppliers need effective strategies to connect to the clients most likely to buy their product.

For these brands, mass market advertising is expensive and often misplaced but an independent advisor with strong client relationships is worth their weight in gold.

That’s why Windstar, along with other luxury travel cruise brands, are focused on their direct agent relationships.

There is a good argument for more suppliers to take a closer look at their yields.

I’d argue airlines would see a significant difference on the return they get on the average passenger fare via an agent versus direct.

The truth is independent agents play a huge part in delivering higher yields to all suppliers, from cruise lines to tour companies, hotels and airlines and their value proposition is immense.


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