Comment: Why travel agents are more valuable than ever

Carrier’s managing director Mark Duguid on why agents are worth their weight in gold

Much has been written about how the Covid-19 pandemic could change the shape of future travel – why we travel, where we go and what we’ll do when we get there – but could it also change how travel is sold?


The need to sell on service rather than price is not a new concept, but it is one that has remained frustratingly challenging in travel.  How often does a perfectly crafted proposal, following hours of research and weeks of fine tuning, end up as a conversation haggling over price and discount?


If some agents have been reluctant to command a premium for their service in the past, surely now is the perfect time to break that habit.


Just as trade Facebook sites and WhatsApp groups are awash with feedback on which operators are providing excellent service, clients will be having those same conversations about their agents.  Throughout this crisis it’s the agents who have been accessible when needed, providing guidance and reassurance, handling complex renegotiations with operators or suppliers, all the while ensuring funds are protected and client’s best interests are prioritised at all times.  It’s a reflection of the tremendous dedication, talent and commitment that highly-skilled and highly-regarded agents are demonstrating right now.  


In short, it’s never been clearer that agents are truly invaluable to their clients.  Booking with a human rather than a faceless brand means clients benefit from empathy, honesty and flexibility.  These are behaviours you simply don’t find online or in large call centres.


Placing real value on service like this is not new, especially for those of us at the luxury end of the market.  To some, luxury travel can appear as simple as including a private transfer and fancy ticket wallet, but any luxury brand worth their salt knows that luxury is really about people and service excellence.   They will be demonstrating their service credentials right now, offering genuinely bespoke solutions to each and every client and avoiding hiding behind terms and conditions, blanket policies or employee furlough schemes.  


At Carrier we find that the ability to command a premium usually comes down to confidence.  Both self-belief in our own service (which is more valuable than ever in a time of crisis) and trust in our supply chain (namely partnerships with suppliers we can rely on when the chips are down).  


For agents I believe the same is true.  Right now there should be an unshakable belief in the service they provide to their clients, coupled with real confidence in their partnerships with tour operators who share the same values and can be trusted to deliver in such turbulent times.  We’re extremely grateful to partner with many agents who already work this way.    


So as we read all about the predictions for travel post-crisis – trends like travelling ‘with purpose’ and responsible tourism going mainstream – my sincere hope is that we’re also at a turning point in how we sell travel.  In the coming months clients are sure to need more expert guidance than ever before and will value booking with a human they can trust.  Let’s step away from the unrelenting drive downwards to lower prices to compete with internet self-packaging and resolve to promote our holidays and service with absolute confidence.  As the famous make-up ad says, “because you’re worth it”.

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