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Why OTAs won’t replace physical travel agents

Virtuoso boss weighs in

It’s little wonder Virtuoso is optimistic about its future, as well as that of the bricks and mortar travel agent, after reporting nearly 50% growth in its Australian network in the past year.



The luxury travel agency network experienced a 47% rise in Australian advisor numbers, while achieving growth of 26% globally, and it is the travel agent’s ability to personalise itineraries that will continue to put the industry in good stead.


“The products and transactions that are simply commoditised will be forced into volume based business models - we see this as a legitimate domain for online booking engines - while consumers in search of personalised or more intricate travel will be attracted to service and expertise,” Virtuoso Asia-Pacific managing director Michael Londregan said.


“There will always be value in professional service from an experienced advisor who has personal connections, localised knowledge and access to premium experiences.”



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Mr Londregan pointed to recent independent research into the American traveller, which found the number of people using an OTA to regularly book travel fell from 36% to 13% over the past twelve months.


In a nice turn of phrase, Londregan lamented the notion that customer service is a cost to the business model, but said customer service “is our business model”. 


“The thing about Virtuoso advisors is they offer personal service, they are true travel ‘professionals’ and, much like your financial advisor, they work with clients not only on the current holiday booking but look to develop a multi-year travel plan,” he said.


“This is particularly relevant in luxury travel clients who are looking for wow experiences that reflect their priorities and lifestyles and provide the maximum return on their most precious commodity - their time.”


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Written by: Mark Harada

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