I popped into Case Olden Travel, in Westcliff on Sea the other day(CASE OLDEN TRAVEL: 01702 351456)to find out a little more about what was going on in travel and met an experienced Agent by the name of Judith Chaplin-who shared with me her thoughts about the industry. An industry which from her point of view is constantly changing.
During our conversation I asked her what would be the best way to develop a more connected relationship with those within the industry, so that I can work more closely in it. Being a travel blogger and building a business is interesting and tough – I want to work within the industry to develop my knowledge and understanding and offer the skills I know I hold. Then I can guide those who travel and enable them to find out accurate, relevant and valuable travel information. Trying to connect with others and company’s within its hallowed invisible walls, does not always prove easy. She offered a few recommendations: different routes but some which were not necessarily an open avenue to those attempting to work within it – as mature, experienced professionals in their own right.
Our conversation then led me to thinking more about independent travel – which I really like. Travel products and holidays as put together for holiday makers by an agent and our discussion turned to the changing face of the travel agent and I felt excited as we discussed how the future may unfold.
How Drastically is the role of the travel agent changing in UK Society?
When I think of my own needs as a traveller – if I wanted to book a two-week holiday to somewhere specific, my first stop would probably be a company like Kuoni. As I’d hope to find something eclectic but still within the realms of a brochure holiday. Yet is the need of the traveller becoming even more independent – requiring a tailor-made service but still with the protection that booking with an Abta or Atol protected agent offers?
I know, for as far back as I can remember this gave me the assurance I needed – now when I travel and create my own itineraries, I am looking to protect it in a different way. Through my travel insurance and with a back up plan.
What are Travel Customers needs when booking with an Agent in 2015?
For me it would be the Travel Agency finding me a better price than I could get for myself on the internet. Yet also an agent who would research who were online reputable companies and know of those who were not. So when mentioned, could guide me in the right direction. Someone whose knowledge is of both destination and product – from individual experience and product knowledge. A person who is as passionate about my trip – as I am myself and someone who can connect with my train of thought, utilising great interpersonal and rapport building skills. An empathic individual who can pick up the subtleties of what I am trying to create due to their developed knowledge – through our conversation and because of their people experience. Yet also holding the ability to interact with technology, show me and help me to bring my dream or vision to life. Declaring the possibilities visibly. So we sit together and not either side of a desk. This Agent would become my motivator – my travel coach, my holiday creator. A relationship would develop.
As a travel agent can access the real-time live prices of hotels – where at home I may only be able to find data online which isn’t as up to date. If an agent does all this work for the customer – depending on the trip and the cost of the holiday should there be a charge or a fee to enable them to earn, whilst they are working. I know Judith told me she if she were creating a round the world trip for a customer, then she would hold a deposit for the work done, returnable once the customer booked. Rather than customers being able to use the travel agent as an information base, before they go away and book a trip for themselves online. Which some savvy travellers do!
I’m looking forward with interest to see how the front-line face of travel changes in the UK – as technology advances and customers choose to create different and eclectic trips.
What would you want from your ideal travel agent?