Agents prove inept at up-selling

Travel agents are turning down opportunities to sell lucrative add-ons and remain intent on selling airfares only, ATN's mystery shopper can reveal.

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By  Gemma Hornett Published  June 1, 2006

Of the 23 top Dubai travel agents visited in person by the mystery shopper, none offered him any products or services other than airfare quotes and even when he hinted that he required other services, none suggested hotel accommodation and only 9% offered car rental. “I would try to direct the conversation towards the fact I may require additional products. I even noisily dropped my current car rental keys on their desks in the hope they would think the words ‘car rental’, but none had an effect on the outcome of the conversation – the price of the ticket,” explained ATN’s mystery shopper, a former travel agent himself. “Having depended quite highly on my ability to sell all things travel in my five years as an agent in Sydney (Australia) in order to increase margins and profit, I was shocked by my findings.” At the end of the consultation with each agent, none actually asked the mystery shopper for the booking, although Kanoo Holidays in Karama and Dnata in Mall of the Emirates did provide a print out of the proposed flight itinerary and a car rental quotation. When he asked for a car rental provider when pressed, eight suggested Holiday Autos, three Hertz and two Europcar. However, Belhasa in Dubai Media City, a Holiday Autos preferred agent, suggested the mystery shopper pop next door to Thrifty. “It was pretty disappointing considering the number of agencies who have offers from airlines, car hire companies, hotels and attractions plastered all over their walls. One wonders where their priorities lay and whether they are interested in increasing commissions and therefore profits,” the mystery shopper told ATN. Holiday Autos, which is renowned for supporting the travel trade with training initiatives and financial incentives in addition to its 15% commission rate, said it was shocked by the survey’s findings. “We are trying our hardest to get travel agents to sell auxiliary products such as car hire and we have a sales team constantly out on the road visiting them, but we are not seeing much growth from agent business in the UAE, which we are surprised about because we thought trade sales would be strong here,” said Nazar Musa, managing director, Holiday Autos Middle East. He hinted that the company’s strongest growth was coming from direct and B2B channels, as well as agents in emerging markets across GCC states. “Something has to be done because we don’t want the travel agent to become irrelevant. That’s not good for us, or the consumer. Agents need to realise the potential of up-selling.”

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