Thursday, October 11, 2007

Testing travel agents

Travolution's latest column in Travel Weekly:

Every now and again it is useful to do a little experiment.

A few weeks ago I went into an east London travel agent armed with nothing but my own curiosity.

The reason was not, alas, to book a holiday, but I wanted to see how the agent would react to a customer who clearly did not want to make a booking but was simply looking for more information to subsequently secure a deal online.

This type of scenario will become increasingly commonplace as consumers become experts in using a variety of channels to search and book travel products.

Back to the story. My frighteningly upbeat agent – refreshing, despite being so late on a Saturday afternoon – listened carefully as I outlined some ideas for a trip.

I admitted early on that I was just browsing (to use an online term) and would probably book online in a few days.

Despite this obvious blow to her commission, the agent kept with me and asked a lot of questions about my circumstances, preferences, and where I had been before.

Handing me a pile of brochures, she said: “Now, what I suggest you do is take these and check out the destinations on our website or something like the Lonely Planet site.”

I was waiting for a plea to return and book the holiday with the agent – but it didn’t come.

The agent simply advised me to book the holiday on the company’s own website – if I couldn’t make it to the shop – or, failing that, make sure I got a good price elsewhere and “remember who gave you all the decent information and come back next time”.

The question I came away with is this: was this refreshing honesty simply from someone who understands the modern consumer (and has a sense of humour) or an agent who has given up?

You decide.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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Anonymous said...

great blogspot! Greetings from Germany

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