Trust in the trade: travel agencies are making their comeback

The high street travel agent is making a well-celebrated comeback thanks to improvements in trade technology, more trust in expert-led bookings and their access to exclusive deals – is this momentum set to continue? 

Flight Centre and Hays Travel are just some of the major travel agencies to open new branches in the UK, and it seems the recent influx isn’t slowing down as the number of people using agent services is continuing to increase.

Tech triumphs

One of the contributing factors to the rise is that of better technology available to agents, according to Gareth Matthews, chief marketing officer at Didatravel: “Distribution companies and intermediaries have long since evolved to offer far more advanced retailing technology, giving agents the ability to find highly personalised deals for their customers.

“Artificial intelligence and automation, while often heralded as a threat to travel agents, also offers huge potential, ensuring agents have better information at their fingertips which in turn will free up more of their time to offer a more personalised service.”

Trust in travel

After the pandemic brought the travel industry to a standstill, trust in the sector diminished alongside it, however public interest seems to once again be turning in the agents’ favour as people want to feel assured they are receiving the correct information and trust the experts to provide them with that information. 

Eugene Ko, marketing director at Phocuswright, highlighted how booking procedures have become “increasingly complex” in recent years and by using travel agents customers can “eliminate the need for extensive online trawling, as the agent can handle all the details and bookings … this convenience saves time and effort, especially for complex itineraries or group travel.”

Sami Doyle from insurance intermediary TMU Management, stated how the trust factor with high street retailers is “so much higher” after the chaos Covid-19 unleashed on independent travel plans including “non-existent customer service, hard-to-come-by cancellations and refunds, and in some cases bankruptcies.” He highlighted how the trust in travel agents is built around “the perception of security, that you’d have someone to complain to or ask for refund.”

Expanding the offering

Exclusive deals and offers are a major draw for any holidaymaker, and agents are often privy to discounts not available to public. Evren Oktay, founder and COO of pax2night, an accommodation bedbank from Yuppi Travel, explained how agents have “established relationships with travel suppliers and can negotiate better prices or perks for their clients” which are enticing more customers to agencies.

Travel agencies are now offering more as part of their packages and expanding the breadth of in-destination experiences: a major draw for people wanting the full holiday experience. Craig Everett, founder and CEO of Holibob, stated: “One very successful strategy has been to start cross-selling or including in packages all the little in-destination extras such as activities, tours and theme park tickets.”  

By all accounts the future looks to be in favour of the agents as this momentum is set to remain across the UK and further afield.