With the volcanic eruptions subsided as I write this piece, travel agents everywhere can all breath a little easier with that knowledge, though of course with the challenges we face daily, we know never to ‘stand down’ completely and of course don’t!

With the recent British Airways strikes, agents have been forced to be ever resourceful in securing alternative flights for clients, and it is unthinkable the damage that has been caused to our national carrier by the actions of cabin crew, who are lucky to have kept their jobs throughout the worlds worst recession. I just hope British Airways can survive the militant action currently underway.

But what of the poor public who will have booked direct with the airlines and hoteliers in the hope of saving a few pounds? In recent years, the internet appears to have stolen a march on the travel industry that is overwhelming for the client and is tough competition for retail agents everywhere. Whilst we should all have an online presence it appears now that there is a significant shift back to the travel agent, whether High Street based or homeworking and one that we should all embrace and promote - widely!

The ash crisis has highlighted to the client once more, that having a travel agent as opposed to booking direct can be reassuring and money
saving! Take my homeworking colleague Jackie Frith for example. She had clients due to depart for Mauritius to celebrate their wedding anniversary on the very day the ash cloud stormed into our airspace. The trip was rebooked and cancelled twice before it was rescheduled to November, when a birthday will be celebrated and of a belated anniversary.

Of course, a common scenario of recent weeks up and down the country. What made this significant for Jackie was the wonderful letter she received from the client thanking her for her hard work and endorsing the use of a reputable travel agent; something we have been saying for a long time and of course Jackie was delighted to receive such a letter which recognised her efforts.

In the clients’ words: “For one week solidly, I was in contact with Jackie 6-8 times a day, going back and forth trying to rebook before confirming the date in November. During this stressful time, Jackie was such a great support, nothing was too much trouble and she was an absolute star.

“This has been a lesson to us all. When booking a holiday, especially long-haul, don’t book through the internet, its much safer to book through a good company. In this day and age with all the problems, it really is not worth it as one could lose everything.”

At last! Recognition of our hard work and expertise and of course a client retained through Jackie’s hard work and persistence! There is a place for the internet of course and a good Website that offers good content will support a business. However, when disaster strikes, who can you talk to? Customer service resources are stretched to their limits, frustrating clients and costing money and goodwill, which for future business can be disaster in itself. We have all had experience of a short tempered call centre worker on their umpteenth call of the day being asked the same questions again and again. As agents we can be that stepping stone between the client and the supplier, keeping goodwill all round, after all that’s what we earn our commission for.

So, to our tour operator friends, on behalf of the travel agents, I ask that you don’t cut out the middle man, we are your extra resource when you need it and will support you through the crisis, be sympathetic and understanding. To travel agents everywhere, be proud of who you are, what you do and your achievements through challenging times. Remind your clients that a good travel agent will save a client money, that you are available out of hours, assuring the client of your personal attention and first class service and use the ash crisis as an example of how booking through an agent can support clients, you will all have your own examples, use them positively.

We don’t know and never will we know what is going to happen next, the ash can return, BA continue their strikes, but we are resourceful, knowledgeable and professional to the end, offer financial protection, but above, all a friendly voice and personal assistance.

Go and shout it from the roof tops, you are worth your weight in gold!
twn Are you sure that you want to switch to desktop version?