The travel agency landscape is about to be revolutionised

Gemma Greenwood, 13 Mar 2013 11:27

Bog standard agents need to be on the ball to keep pace with changes afoot

The travel agency model in the Middle East has, in general, remained the same for many years. Many agents started out as air ticket bookers and some, sadly, have not evolved to do much more than that even in today’s competitive environment.

Some travel firms have raised the bar – creating boutique agencies and branching out from corporate travel into specialist leisure arenas. Yet few – even the big boys – have succeeded in creating memorable brands and high-volume businesses as far as outbound leisure travel is concerned.

Customer service levels are still sub-standard on the whole, with some notable exceptions, and most bricks-and-mortar agents have failed to embrace the online travel revolution.

Innovation is sorely lacking across the board, particularly compared to other regions where travel retail providers have been forced to adapt or die – or both!

However, there are finally some new players in the market who are set to shake things up.

The self-proclaimed ‘Google of travel’, Wego, has set up shop in the Middle East, bringing an entirely new model to the region. Unlike Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), Wego does not transact, but is essentially a travel price and availability comparison website, helping users shop the market fast and efficiently to find the best deals.

Wego co-founder, Ross Veitch, says the Middle East travel industry is on the verge of moving online from what has always been an offline business until now.

Highly successful global travel agency business, Flight Centre, has also recently established a UAE presence with offering cheap travel services online, backed up by its world-renowned customer service.
And if this wasn’t enough for the region’s agents to contend with, another new concept has been rolled out in Dubai that introduces the tried-and-tested homeworking model to the emirate. Travel Counsellors, which originally started in the UK and has subsequently grown to become a worldwide phenomenon, has signed a joint venture with Dnata and already has a group of elite travel professionals on its books.

But there is some good news following this diatribe of doom and gloom; experienced travel agents who are stuck in a rut and want to know how they can get involved with Travel Counsellors can attend a seminar dedicated to this topic at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM). Entitled ‘Is homeworking for you?’, the session will take place on Wednesday May 8 at 2.45pm.
Travel Counsellors management and travel professionals will explain how they model works and why it’s successful.

Savvy agents will come along to at least get more ideas on how to think outside the box and plan their survival tactics for this new age of travel.

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