Our fourth Travel Daily UK columnist is JTA’s Wayne Darrock, who will be providing insight into the supplier side of the travel industry. This week, a look at how travel agents can compete more
effectively in a world driven by savvy online customers.
“We’ve come a long way since the first travel company, Cox & Kings, was formed in 1758 and the father of modern mass tourism, Thomas Cook, was established in 1841. Nowadays, travel and tourism have become a vital part of economy and culture in many countries and since the British public has always celebrated international tourism, we constantly contribute to directly influencing the growth of many economies and the development of service offerings around the world.
2013 proved to be another year of strong growth for JTA, unaffected by weather or economic difficulties. The success is partially due to JTA’s launch of new product lines such as our cruise packaging website Needacruise.co.uk and Mediterranean package holiday brand MedSun. We recognised agents had to make changes to their business driven by new ATOL regulations. There were opportunities for a new type of tour operator to provide totally flexible holidays driven by a comprehensive flying programme to include charter, low costs and scheduled carriers. This would allow agents to compete with the “internet traveller” ungoverned by the ATOL restrictions set upon the travel industry.
The rise of technology and online shopping saw a new breed of traveller pre armed with information and prices that changed travel booking forever, making it easier for customers to shop-around for bargains and research holidays independently without using the services of travel agents.
This, in-turn, had a strong negative impact on travel agencies, making it more difficult to attract this new type of traveller. With price becoming one of the most important factors, agents were forced to seek out and exhaust all possible options for each individual enquiry and find ‘the best deal’ just to stay competitive. Agents, who remained solely faithful to the traditional brochure holidays, would often struggle to compete with online prices driven by low overheads and no brochure production costs. Agents that adapted and recognised the need to offer dynamic packaged holidays versus brochure holidays would stand more of a chance of converting and competing on price for the “internet traveller”, who in many cases would pay slightly more for the services and assurances of booking via an established travel agent.
However, they would possibly only get the one shot at converting or never see that client again! How do you replace your existing clients as they age with this new breed of traveller if you aren’t competing? It’s your companies’ future!
As a consolidator/tour operator, JTA’s key focus was to provide the tools to all modern-day travel agents to compete with online offerings to internet travellers. Continuous technological advancements are more important now than ever. This is why Needacruise.co.uk was in the pipeline for two years before its launch. We wanted to ensure that Needacruise not only stood out from the competition, but most importantly was easy to use and met agents’ needs by offering the latest in cruise packaging technology; the widest variety of all major cruise lines in the market; packaging with flight and accommodation options and such important extras as late departure cover.
I strongly believe that any good business needs to listen to their customers and then set out to deliver the tools their customers’ needs. The new breed of tour operators are reacting to these requirements and adding more diversity and “live pricing” to the traditional package model and both have a place within today’s travel industry.”