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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Changes in the Selling of Travel | THE BUSINESS OF LEISURE

The Business of Leisure with Tony Humphrey

Apart from my obvious enjoyment of Leisure and Travel my background in the industry covers – retail travel, group travel and a dabble with wholesale travel…pre-internet!

With the arrival of the web in the mid 90’s I started to learn about the new ways of reaching out to a wider audience of travellers around the world. My bricks and mortar business was costly and the whole retail industry was being hurt by lower commissions from airlines and the need to adapt to a system of charging fees to clients…..still a hard sell!

One day I could see that using the new online promotional tools, I could reduce my advertising spend in local, regional and national newspapers and magazines. I could also see the opportunity for travellers to ‘go-direct’ to operators via websites leading to a rapid decline in the bricks and mortar retail industry for independent agencies. What I could also envisage is that savvy consumers would expect to get direct booking (outlet) prices as there was no need of an agent or middleman. Although there are many consumers who do not think about the commission element in the price of travel I thought that one day the realization that when they are handling their own travel bookings directly with the source (outlet), they might think “Why am I paying full retail price?”

Another factor in the growth of online travel and the decline in retail agencies was that by going directly to the operators, the consumer would then be able to reap the benefits of knowledge, experience and expertise. They would now be dealing with the source. The ‘source’ would be either an expert retailer or the operator.

The travel industry, led by national tourism bureaux and large travel suppliers, was into a system of ‘specialists’ and readily appointing any agent, who was prepared to take a simple destination or product test, as a destination or product specialist….. “Become a specialist in our destination or our tour products and promote this to your clients” was the cry….. You could now tell your clients that you are a destination or tour specialist, not necessarily an expert with knowledge, experience and expertise or that you have even “been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ – no worries…you are a specialist. This system of specialist travel agents is still alive and well today and in my opinion is detrimental to the reputations and expertise of the real experts with many years of travel experiences. Find these if you can and select different agents for your different wants and needs by destination and/or activity. They are out there!

Reality check: I remember going to a major travel agency flight centre chain for two tickets to Mexico and was only offered two airlines. After I returned home and checked on the internet, I found five airlines. Obviously they only sold their preferred carriers where they earned preferential commissions.

It’s an odd fact that throughout our lives we will probably spend more on leisure and travel than with lawyers, accountants, doctors, builders, plumbers, electricians, hairdressers. But with all of the latter we will make sure that they know their biz! However, rarely do we ask the same of our travel agent.

A Travel ‘Outlet’ is born. I felt that it was time to offer travellers a resource where they could go directly to the source and get a price that did not include the retail mark-up.

Next issue: Outlet prices and commissions and who makes them.

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Tony Humphrey is the CEO / Top Hand at which offers its members significant discounts and savings on travel and shopping in over 100 countries. Sign up today for our exclusive 2 for 1 family membership package… ..Please Click Here.

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