Why travellers are returning to travel agents.
It’s been 20 years since the launch of the world’s first online travel booking site and there has been much speculation since that the role of the travel agent would become obsolete. Yet while other traditional industries seemingly struggle with the impact of technological and online advancements, the online onslaught has seen travel agencies not only survive, but they are now thriving, with consumers realising the value and benefits travel agents can provide.
“We are busier than ever,” claims Rane Reguson, Managing Director of italktravel & cruise Townsville City and Jetsetter Travel Ayr. “For agents, the significant difference is that most are available 24/7 to support the client at every moment during their travel booking process. What people don’t always realise is agents often offer service and pricing that can beat the internet.”
What was perceived by many as a threat for travel agencies has in fact proven to be beneficial. While there may be fewer agents than a decade ago, there are still almost 4000 travel agencies operational throughout Australia. That’s more shopfronts than McDonalds.
The internet has given consumers the ability to do their own research which has resulted in more educated clients who know what they want. “The online world is quite helpful to us as it assists in the client qualifying exactly what they want. Our job is to deliver on their needs and educate them about the benefits when they book with us. The access to very competitive pricing across the board gives us an edge,” says Rane.
The onus is on the travel agents to provide a level of knowledge and service that can’t be provided from booking online.
“I, like most of my colleagues in the industry, have travelled extensively, experienced diverse cultures and embraced many once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” shares Rane, explaining that it’s this hands-on experience that gives agents the upper hand. “I think this gives us an edge when creating inspirational travel packages for our clients.
“Travel agents offer a point of difference to the internet and the key is human contact and relationships – not just the relationships we have with our clients but the imperative relationships we have with all our suppliers,” Rane explains. “Repeat business continues to evolve and grow. Our clients appreciate the VIP touches and perks that we pull together.”
Many consumers have now returned to booking with travel agencies after experiencing problems booking online.
“We often hear the horror stories,” Rane says. “People who have booked with an online, off shore provider and then had major dramas with arrangements. There’s no personalised service nor anyone to talk to due to time delays or cancellations, not to mention the cost to call offshore.”
In the time since online bookings first took off, travellers have been bombarded with prices, reviews, deals, times, layovers, chat rooms, pop-ups….their fingers are now worn, they have a headache and are drowning in too much information.
“As the internet continues to evolve, it also continues to confuse the consumer with information overload which we see happening every day,” he says. “Everyone is busy, we easily take the stress out of their holiday planning.”
Rane and his team expect to see even more growth in the industry, with an increasing number of local clients booking their corporate and leisure travel through travel agencies.
“Our hot destinations are New Zealand, UK/Europe, USA and Canada, and we are seeing a quickly growing market for adventure travel,” Rane says. “Passenger numbers for 2018 across both domestic and international was higher year on end and I think we should expect the same for this new year.”