Agents See Direct Web Sales as Biggest Threat

73 per cent of travel agents and industry
professionals surveyed in a recent Amadeus
snap poll stated that they were
either concerned or very concerned about the effect that airline and
operator direct sales via the internet will have on their business.
Rating four different industry issues on a scale of 1 - 5, with 1 being not
at all concerned, 3 being neutral and 5 being very concerned, the effect of
internet direct sales was of key concern closely followed by the move by
airlines towards 1 per cent commission rates with 70 per cent of respondents
stating that they were either somewhat concerned or very concerned about
this trend.

Commenting on these two issues, one agent stated, “1 per cent commission
almost makes it not worth the trouble of being an agent. When airlines and
operators direct sell, it takes care of the easy bookings but leaves agents
having to resolve the difficult or multiple bookings. This takes time,
expertise and energy for which the airlines do not even thank the agents.
Then adding insult to injury is the fact that some airlines charge for
phoning them about problems caused by the airline which can lead to the
booking being a dead loss for the agent.” 

However, some agents were more pragmatic regarding changing commission
rates.  One UK niche agent sees the 1 per cent commission rate as making
their lives easier, forecasting that people will either have to be happy to
pay a service charge or else go on-line to make the booking themselves.

Somewhat surprisingly, most agents were not particularly concerned about the
increasing trend towards charging service fees with only 27 per cent of
respondents showing any concern over this issue.  Another issue agents were
asked about was their level of concern over forward bookings for 2004.  Only
20 per cent of respondents expressed any concern over forward bookings for
2004 - which suggests a cautious but more optimistic view amongst agents for
next year.

Rob Golledge, Senior Marketing Communications Executive at Amadeus UK, said
“These issues affect agents in different ways depending on whether they
focus on business or leisure travel and the diversity of respondents’ views
reflect this. One of the more positive comments expressed is that now more
than ever, travel agents are working for their customers rather than acting
as agents for any airline or operator. This is good news for the customer
when it comes to receiving independent advice. But it’s bad news for
suppliers who are too eager to ditch the agency distribution model -
considering the volume of sales that is still being generated through travel
agents.”
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