Rising value of agents is Covid pandemic ‘silver lining’

Industry leaders say the Covid pandemic has left people with a greater appreciation of frontline travel agents.

Speaking at Vertical Travel Group’s 2022 conference in Cyprus, a panel of speakers hosted by the group’s business development director, Damian McDonough, discussed the current climate and key issues facing the sector.

Alison Holmes, head of the Co-0p Travel Consortium (pictured), said the “silver lining” of the pandemic was that customers now value homeworkers and retail-based agents more than before.

She said: “Across the consortium we’re speaking to individual agents who all say they’re seeing more customers come through the door than they did several years ago; it’s clear people want agents’ advice and the security of booking through an agent.

“One of the most frustrating things our guys have had to deal with over the past few years is people ringing them up for advice, even though they didn’t book with them. These people have booked online but can’t get through to anyone when something goes wrong, so instead turn to agents for free help.

“This just shows that people need to book through reputable homeworkers or travel agents in shops for that level of expertise and security.”

Holmes referenced a recent Abta survey which found 66% of younger people (18-24 years old) are now more likely to book with a travel professional than pre-pandemic.

The same report, titled Travel in 2022, found people across all age groups are now 30% more likely to book with a travel professional than before the pandemic, primarily for their guidance with Covid travel requirements and the security of a package holiday.

Nick Hughes, sales director for Gold Medal, a headline sponsor of Vertical’s conference, said agents have historically “undersold themselves”.

“Covid has really shown the value agents can bring,” he said. “A lot of our partners are seeing more customers come through the door than before and I think agents have undersold themselves far too much.

“In other industries people are charged just for talking to experts in their field, but in our industry we give that service away free.

“What we’ve learned over the past few years is that we need to understand the value we offer as travel agents and tour operators, and how to make the most of that.”

The Vertical Travel Group conference was held at the group of Constantinou Bros hotels in Paphos from March 31 to April 2.

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