Abta 18: Midcounties boss hits out at tech suppliers

Abta 18: Midcounties boss hits out at tech suppliers

A leading agent has attacked travel tech suppliers for failing to provide the systems his business needs.

Midcounties Co-operative specialist retail managing director Alistair Rowland described the technology available from such companies as “awful’.

Without naming names, he hit out at tech firms and said there was a need for suppliers that can meet the specialist end to end requirements of travel agencies.

The poor quality of the various technology elements an agency needs to work efficiently was one of the biggest causes of complaints from staff.

“There should be a piece off CRM and back office that helps the agents,” he said. “The lag is the technology.”

He added that venture capital-backed agencies tend to build their own technology solutions which is an upside for a sale.

Generally though, no tech supplier has an end to end product to buy which works, and that is what he felt was frustrating.

Rowland also issued a warning about US pyramid selling outfits attempting to become established in the UK trade pretending to offer expertise to start-up travel agents.

“Pyramid selling organisations from the US trying to infiltrate the UK will drive poor consumer behaviour. At the end of the day they will never replace a trusted agent,” he said.

Rowland was participating in a debate on the future of the expert at the Abta Travel Convention in Seville.

He highlighted the expertise of his retail and homeworking agency staff with some personal travel agents becoming brands in their own right due to the referrals and high level of bookings they achieve.

However, Rowland accepted that Midcounties needed to tap into the youth market to remain relevant.

“We need to find our next clients for the next 20 years,” he added.

Rowland was speaking as Google travel director Becky Power outlined that the average travel booking involves 36 touch points over 40 days.

“Understanding what the consumer is doing is vitally important,” she added.

Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni owner Der Touristik UK, joined Rowland in emphasising the expert knowledge his staff have in helping consumers book holidays.

Jones revealed that 70% of customers who visit a Kuoni store on a pre-arranged appointment are converted into booking.

He dismissed so-called travel concept stores featuring banks of iPads as a “pointless” barrier between the consumer and the travel consultant.

Rowland agreed that complex bookings require face to face discussion rather than a faceless commodity such as voice-based systems.

Jones emphasised the value of ensuring his staff and third party agents experience the destinations they are selling, adding: “That won’t change.”

Travel Weekly is trade media partner of The Travel Convention.
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