ITB: Agents not dead or dying, says Google/TripAdvisor

Senior figures at Google and TripAdvisor have insisted travel agents have a future in the industry despite their business models appearing to be undermined by the online travel giants.

TripAdvisor for Business president Christine Petersen told an audience at trade show ITB in Berlin: “You don’t need agents for standard stuff like booking a flight or to find a hotel near a conference centre.”

But Petersen said she had used an agent to book a recent ski holiday following a recommendation by a friend.

She said: “We are far from satisfying bespoke needs or [meeting the demands of] those who have not  been to a far away destination and don’t have a friend who has been there.”

Petersen added: “Agents will need to change the way they do business, but I don’t see the travel agent going away.”

Google head of global travel accounts Bernd Fauser agreed, saying: “I recently bought a family trip using different modes of transport and it was very complex.“

Fauser said that was part of the reason why, in Germany: “We see people search online and purchase offline.”

But he added: “Agents need to know people do their homework before they come in [to the agency]. They need to step up and not just sell commodity trips.”

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