D-I-Y travel. The end for travel agents?

By | Category: Travel news
holidays may, just may, get cheaper if APD is removed from under 12's

Holidays in the future – online, direct or via a travel agency?,

Virgin Holidays has decided to avoid the travel agent  (other than those it directly owns) and become an online only tour operator. Customers will select and book their own holidays without recourse to travel agents.

The company says that sales through travel agents was less than 10% of its business and has obviously decided that the money and time spent working with the trade didn’t justify the returns. You could argue that travel agents should have done more to protect themselves by working with the company. On the other hand, travel agents should provide the holiday best suited to their customers and if a Virgin Holiday was not that then Virgin was at fault by not offering holidays that appeal.

Whichever view you hold, the demise of the travel agent has been forecast for years. They are still visible on every high street but will that be the case in 20 years’ time?

There is evidence to show that people look and research online but book at a travel agent. But I don’t see the packed-out shops just after Christmas that we used to see in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In the US, it is not uncommon fo travel agents to match the price of holidays online but charge a consultancy fee for the services they provide. Could that happen here on a larger scale than it already does?

The reaction to the announcement by Virgin Holidays has been exactly what you expect. Travel agents have criticised the company and threatened to put business elsewhere. That isn’t going to hurt Virgin when so little of it goes through the trade; it appears that travel agents have already been doing that otherwise why would agency business be so small?

The travel agents will have to grin and bear it. What they need to do is to come up with concrete reasons as to why we should use them and saying that they have experience is not sufficient any longer. After one or two trips to the same place, the customer is probably better able to select the accommodation best suited to them and where they want to be in a destination. I have visited one destination more than a dozen times over the last twenty years. I largely book the accommodation and flights separately but I do check to see where the best deal is. So far, I have been better at finding it than the travel agency.

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