Friday, July 20, 2007

Sell travel experience necessary

One of our loyal readers recently brought our attention to an online offer which promises that any Average Joe can set-up an online travel agency..."no experience necessary".

The offer comes from Explorer Travel, a division of Baileys Travel, which is headquartered in Wellingborough and operates retail outlets in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and claims to be an ABTA member.

The Explorer Travel website claims that it will provide "all the training and marketing support you need, leaving you to enjoy your business and reap the rewards of your success".

The only requirement, according to the site, is "lots of enthusiasm and a passion for travel".

You see where this is going, don't you?

Explorer offers three agency categories, with fees ranging from £250 to £10,000.

On the upper end of the scale, Explorer says it will create and maintain one or more specialist travel web site(s) operated by its fee-paying "Consultants".

The enticing offer holds the promise of high commissions (really???) and a wide range of "other benefits, including holidays at cost for you and your family and membership of the exclusive Travel Agents Club (whatever that is)".

"Promoters" pay a lesser fee and, apparently, all they have to do is promote their site to family, friends and work colleagues and market it in their local community.

Oh, is that all?

Those in the "Ambassadors" category are promised access to sell products from "over 150 tour operators, almost all of the world's airlines, over 50,000 hotels and villas, car rental, airport parking and excursion, theatre and sporting tickets."

This all sounds eerily familiar to me.

Post 911, when thousands of high street agencies in America were forced to shutter their shops, companies like Explorer popped in the dozens.

They had a variety of names (the infomercials of the travel industry springs to mind) and many were eventually pressured to cease such promotions.

I'm not taking issue with Explorer Travel itself, as I do not know enough about the company to give them a proper spanking. But I do take issue with the message it sends to consumers.

At a time when the high street is suffering a major blow, with leading operators closing down dozens of shops, the industry needs to find a new strategy and professional footing in the online market.

It doesn't need to recruit armies of inexperienced wannabes who are out for a discount on their next cruise.

I understand that companies like Explorer want to make money and take advantage of the booming online travel marketplace, but the last thing this industry needs right now--or anytime, for that matter--is a bunch of amateurs armed with package holiday offers and a credit card terminal.

Not that I have an opinion on this or anything.

Tricia Holly Davis, chief writer, Travolution

1 comment:

Stephen A. Joyce said...

I've seen this in both Canada and the U.S.. Travel agencies that offer franchises or business opportunities to outside sales agents. With commissions being as low as they are for agents and agencies alike, the volume required to make any decent income makes it virtually impossible for novices to succeed in the online marketplace. It seems to me, these agencies would be better off encouraging user feedback and content and reward them with incentives or discounts based on the quality and quantity of their contributions.