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Have you ever seen so many angry travel agents?

February 26, 2009

It’s been a pretty interesting week here at Travel Trade Gazette.

Our February 20 issue ran a letter from a Thomson travel agent, who complained how he’d been undercut – online – by rival Thomas Cook. There was also the cover story on undercutting – frowned upon in the agency community.

Both of these opened up a whole can of worms, as scores of angry independent travel agents (ie. agents who don’t work for Thomson or Cook, or any other large companies or consortia) write into the magazine, amazed this agent had only just noticed, or saying this was actually getting out of hand.

It’s definitely a sore subject, and these agents who wrote in were furious. Below is a wordle (or word cloud) of all their letters combined…

letters1

But another aspect that has come to light is how precarious some agents feel the industry is. It’s almost at tipping point – they ask how are they expected to survive, when direct online prices can be up to hundreds of pounds cheaper.

So it seems the rise of online travel firms are really hitting the high-street agents hard.

One agent said this was a case of “tour operators crushing agents”, but most say: “Live with it”.

But whatever the future holds, the divide between tour operators and agents seems to be growing.

The travel industry is about low margins, so this recession may just have pushed travel companies, for now, to favour the online channel (and avoid paying commission) over the high-street travel agent.

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