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The Plight Of Independent Travel Agencies

Mar 21, 2008
Unfortunately for smaller high street travel agencies the encroaching of big business is becoming increasingly apparent. As with the many independent retailers on our high streets such as greengrocers, butchers and video stores, independent travel agencies are facing the same problems of being able to match the prices and services of the large multinational companies.

With the increasing homogenisation of our high streets this is a bad thing, the consumer may get better deals, but will choice suffer? What must these independent travel agencies do to remain competitive in an increasingly cutthroat market sector?

The first thing independent travel agencies can do is to increase the training of their staff. By carrying out formal training procedures and regular refresher courses, travel agencies can ensure their customers receive the best service possible. With extensive training it is possible to initiate quality control procedures that will ultimately improve customer service. A good agent holds their customer's requirements in the primacy and instilling this in all new recruits is vital.

The training programs put in place by travel agencies should also include detailed education on products and services. An agent who has specific knowledge on a service or type of holiday can inform their customers in a concise and coherent manner. Customers are far more likely to return to an agent if they have been a font of information on a variety of holiday ideas and have provided an efficient service; this is a key element if independent travel agencies want to survive.

Another way in which independent travel agencies may be ale to survive is to diversify. By specialising in a specific field, such as safaris or adventure holidays it is possible to carve out a niche in the marketplace. Knowledge is once again essential, travellers today have a wealth of information at their fingertips and hence the specialist knowledge an agent must possess should deliver that extra element that the internet cannot provide.

There are a number of ways in which travel agencies can diversify; they could focus purely upon types of travel, take cruise holidays or activity trips for instance. Another way in which diversification can be achieved is by focussing upon a single destination, becoming more knowledgeable about that destination than anyone else in the market can be beneficial.

One option is to focus on the types of traveller an agency may wish to focus their efforts upon, this could be women, the elderly or even gay and lesbian travellers. This can aid training as learning about a specific field rather than the travel industry as a whole can result in a better level of knowledge.

The internet is also a way in which independent travel agencies may wish to pursue customers. As the internet is becoming an increasingly popular form of booking holidays, it would be foolhardy not to utilise this resource. Small agencies may think that it would be impossible to compete with the big players but through efficient SEO it is possible to get up the search engine rankings and attract more customers than would normally be possible. This can work especially well with the specialist holiday market as search terms will be easier to target and hence becoming a major player in a particular corner of the market is an achievable goal.

It may not be possible to save all of the independent travel agencies from oblivion, these strategies will work for some but as the nature of these strategies are focussed towards capturing various corners of the market, not all will be able to pursue them. Sadly it seems if the independents are set to go the same way as other small industries along our high streets. As big business steadily pushes out smaller players, homogenisation of the travel industry is surely set to increase.
About the Author
Travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into the increasing homogenisation of the travel industry and how independent travel agencies can diversify to survive.
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