A new year poll of travel agents, conducted by NTL Business (Travel Division), has revealed that although the industry expects the internet to become the dominant reservations channel within five years, 66% of agents prefer making bookings through viewdata, citing speed, trust/familiarity and ease of access as the main reasons for using the travel industry`s dominant technology.
The Travelvision straw poll of 100 independent and multiple agencies - sponsored by leading online UK short breaks provider Superbreak.com - revealed 80% of agents questioned use the internet, with researching holiday destinations given as the top use. The poll showed 82% of respondents operate an agency website, although only 41% of these are selling on the web - and only 44% of this group are offering real-time bookings.
When questioned on how to improve the booking process, agents said greater technology was the factor most likely to increase sales, followed by more destination information and more destination images. The response highlights agents` belief in the importance of systems to the booking process, but a further question revealed that agents still believe personal service is the most crucial factor to closing a sale ahead of price.
In questions on their wider interests and beliefs, respondents cited Friends Reunited as their favourite website alongside Yahoo (11% each). Despite the threat to agency business from the low-cost airline revolution, just over 60% of agents questioned book cheap flights from the sector`s leading carriers, with EasyJet, Ryanair and Go listed as their favourites. Surprisingly, agents proved themselves less pro-European than might be expected in the travel industry, with two thirds (63%) saying they didn`t think Britain should adopt the single currency.
Paul Brewer, Director at Imp Travel in Lincoln, who took part in the poll commented: “As an independent agency we have looked to move forward with technology as much as resources allow. We like to use the internet where possible to make bookings, with the main advantage being the vastly improved presentation of information that can be passed on the client. The web links to companies such as Gold Medal on Traveleye have proved really useful and we will certainly look to use internet technology more and more in the future.”