CATO View – April 2012

Without tour wholesalers, travel agents are on their own

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Peter BaileyWithout tour wholesalers, travel agents are on their own

By Peter Baily, general manager,
Council of Australian Tour Operators


WITH the increasing speed of the communications revolution, the modern trend towards instant access to, and confirmation of, information is gathering pace.

Throw in the opportunity to save a few dollars and the attraction for both consumers and travel agents to book direct with overseas suppliers is heightened. It is time for the role of the wholesaler in the travel chain to be reaffirmed.

The public is told that “without a travel agent, you’re on your own” – and as wholesalers, we agree.

Travel agents should also be aware that “without a travel wholesaler, they are also on their own”!

Travel agents are wholesalers’ link to the public: They promote our products to potential clients in a professional manner, and are an essential part of the gel that sticks the whole travel experience together.

Travel agents know many products and destinations extremely well – usually through their own experience; generally the experience is a one-off in most destinations. In addition, they are quick to learn the ins and outs of destinations they have never been to.

Unlike dealing with online booking engines, clients are able to ask questions of their agents and agents will either know the answers or know how to find them – quickly.

To clients, most travel agents are more than just an agent – they are the people to whom they entrust not just their hard earned money, but more importantly their travel dreams.

Those who choose to travel without a travel agent really are on their own!

In turn the travel agent must realise that to give the best service to their clients they must complete the link and use travel wholesalers to provide the product. Wholesalers provide travel agents with:

Product and Destination Knowledge
• Unrivalled product knowledge on the destinations;
• The link to ground suppliers, tour operators and hotels in the destinations which they on-sell;
• They know their destinations intimately, who runs the tours, and have airline contacts and often political contacts in the countries they promote;
• Know the legal requirements pertaining to travel in the countries they promote; and
• Visit their destinations REGULARLY, cementing their ties and staying up to date with product knowledge and local information.

• Educate travel agents by taking them on famils;
• Provide in-office training, put on roadshows, breakfast seminars and much more, all at the wholesalers’ cost; and
• Attend travel shows, both agency group shows and independent shows.

The Selling Process
• Provide brochures, flyers, on-line PDF’s;
• Provide quotes – often numerous and time consuming, with no guarantee of sales – a major part of the “leg-work” in a sale;
• Provide itineraries, often complex and time consuming, where one simple change can mean additional hours of work, still with no guarantee of a sale;
• Provide accurate flight details to ensure itineraries actually work; and
• Provide IT fares not available to agents, with better commissions than are offered by the airlines themselves.

The Bottom Line
• Provide overrides to agency groups as a part of preferred deals;
• Provide advertising and promotional support;
• Provide incentives directly to travel agents (gift vouchers, free educational, holidays); and
• Provide exceptionally good travel industry rates for agents AND their families.

After Sale
• Handle the distribution of money for itinerary components, for example to airlines, transfer companies, hotels, local tour operators etc; and
• Provide the documentation, itineraries and vouchers.

During the Holiday
• Rearrange flights when they are delayed or missed;
• Their on the ground knowledge and contacts make them the best-equipped to assist in times of emergency such natural disasters, political unrest, strikes and so on;
• Through their partners and connections can contact clients whilst on their holidays in cases of family or work related emergencies; and
• Maintain constant contact with travellers in the event of emergencies.

• Cover and/or delay monetary risks in the event of extreme currency fluctuation;
• Credit card charge-back when they act as the merchant;
• In a better position to assist clients needing emergency medical attention and in providing accurate on the ground details to assist travel insurance companies;
• Better equipped to assist with insurance claims; and
• Protect the travel agent should an off-shore ground operator or hotel suffer a financial collapse.  

Are a few more dollars made by cutting out the wholesaler worth all of this additional work and, more importantly, worth the monetary risk?

Are travel agents really offering a better service to their clients by cutting out wholesalers? I don’t think so!

Without a wholesaler, travel agents, and their clients, are on their own.

Peter Baily’s CATO View column appears quarterly.





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