Monday, July 03, 2006

Smarter than a Sm@rt Agent?

Geoff Monk from Global Coach Tours writes:

Congratulations to Tony Radstone on winning his Sm@rt Agent award from Travolution. However, I wish to put the record straight. He’s not the only crusader and he wasn’t the first! is my online agency, which pre-dates Tony’s Coachtrips by two years. I launched in June 1998 and have sold over £1m worth of escorted coach tours since then working from home.

As a Global Travel Group member I used to have a high street shop selling the full range of holidays until I realised that discounting was so bad, making money was seriously difficult. I closed the shop and moved the business home.

I decided to focus exclusively on coach tours as they do not tend to be discounted, so we don’t advertise any discounts (except for Contiki on PPC). Tony’s site advertises 10% discounts which is unnecessary and means he needs to sell three times as many tours as I do to make the same money.

Is that smart or is it a short-term view? Looking at what discounts did to the cruise business it only gets harder the more players enter the market. We price match if we have to, but giving 10% away is setting a dangerous precedent for the future.

Already this has angered Titan Tours who have cut commission and threatened to stop-sell any agents that discount. Conversely they have offered to reward agents that don’t. Tony fears “the coach sector could follow the mainstream leisure sector by slashing commission and going direct”.

I will be in a better position than Tony if this happens as I trade on quality and service, not giving away my profits to attract business.

My website is under constant review and most of our 700+ tours have the departure dates listed and can be booked on-line with a credit card if available. Whilst online booking is not yet live I always give a fast response. Our main suppliers are Trafalgar, Insight, Contiki and Cosmos.

Tony has found a way to book Cosmos on-line, which we are still looking into, but I disagree with him that they are the only internet friendly supplier as we get plenty of support from our chosen operators. We will be adding more soon so that most world destinations are covered. The small group adventure sector is a “niche within a niche” that isn’t yet served which I will be launching into soon. I also own several other domain names which point to our site, such as

Using VOIP (we have a London phone number as our main contact) I already trade a few weeks a year from my laptop whilst on vacation in Canada or my sister-in-law takes over as a home worker if I’m not going to be near a high speed connection.

By running an internet based travel business I have the freedom to spend more time doing other things I enjoy when I like, rather than being tied down to a nine-to-five type routine.

I enjoy reading Travolution – keep up the good work!

Geoff Monk, managing director, Global Coach Tours

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