She said that it was time for agents to modernise their way of working and to offer a more customer-focused, environmentally friendly service. The Travel Agent who stopped Mary Portas in her tracks was a lady called Jackie Steadman (also an ABTA Board Director) who asked her how she expected Travel Agents to achieve without customers using them for their specialist knowledge and then booking online instead of through the agency. Mary Portas obviously did not realise that approx. 50% of Travel Agent clients tend to book their holidays online and when asked again, how could their achieve modernisation, she said, ‘I don’t know the answer’.
After this stumbling block, Mary Portas soon found her voice again and suggested that Travel Agents look to work with partners such as luggage companies to offer customers more value. With this, members of the audience shouted out that it had already been tried but it still did not prevent customers booking online instead of in an agency. Another suggestion was to charge for the specialist knowledge that they provide the customers, Mary Portas said that she would most definitely pay.
The ‘Queen Of Shops’ suggested that Travel Agents should move away from offering the swankiest of hotels but instead, sell an experience such as telling holidaymakers about a great restaurant or hidden walk etc. They should also consider the Green Revolution and perhaps offer something back to the environment such as the British Airways ‘Change For Life’ programme as customers are looking for things that are not only good for them but also for the world that they live in.
She finished by saying that as long as Travel Agents provide excellent customer service, that includes specialist knowledge, and going out of the way to help with the holiday search then this should be enough to persuade customers back into Agencies to book their holidays instead of choosing the Internet.