Understanding UK Travel Industry

Understanding UK Travel Industry



"50% Discount!"
"Cut out the​ middle man"
"Its cheaper on​ the​ web!"
"Free Insurance for a​ year!"
"Book direct and save!"
"No Booking Fee!"

Are you​ confused? Do you​ know the​ difference between a​ travel agent,​ a​ tour operator and a​ consolidator. Do you​ know who is​ offering the​ best deals? is​ free insurance and 20% discount better than 50% discount? the​ UK travel industry is​ a​ minefield and mine detectors are nowhere to​ be seen.'Understanding UK Travel Industry' is​ our attempt to​ unravel some of​ the​ confusion and advise you​ on​ the​ way. We don't pretend to​ be unbiased and we acknowledge that our opinion doesn't necessarily reflect the​ opinion of​ others in​ the​ business,​ but we do try to​ be honest and give the​ facts as​ we see them. Hopefully you​ will find the​ pages useful.

TOUR OPERATORS
==============
Tour Operators put together the​ various elements of​ a​ typical holiday and sell them as​ package holidays.They sell their packages either direct to​ the​ public and/or through travel agents. the​ cost of​ a​ holiday can vary greatly between tour operators (see examples). if​ they sell through travel agents,​ they pay a​ commission (usually a​ percentage of​ the​ holiday price) to​ the​ agent.Most people are familiar with the​ large tour operators such as​ Airtours,​ Thomson and JMC. Such tour operators offer a​ vast range of​ holidays and a​ vast range of​ destinations,​ and their buying power ensures reasonable prices. However,​ never forget that there are thousands of​ other tour operators out there. Many are small operators,​ specialising in​ specific markets or​ specific destinations. and their prices can be very competitive.Tour Operators come in​ for a​ lot of​ criticism from consumer groups and watchdogs. Whilst,​ there are,​ of​ course,​ very good operators and very poor operators,​ we believe that in​ general,​ customer service in​ the​ travel industry leaves a​ lot to​ be desired (at all levels,​ including operator to​ agent,​ agent to​ the​ consumer and operator to​ consumer).

Direct Sell
========
Some tour operators will only sell their package holidays direct to​ the​ consumer,​ bypassing the​ travel agent. Other will sell through travel agents and also direct to​ the​ consumer and others sell only through travel agents."Is it​ not cheaper to​ buy direct then?",​ you​ may ask. the​ answer is​ "well,​ perhaps sometime,​ if​ ... and but...". Let us explain...First we need to​ clear up a​ misconception which has evolved from a​ deplorable series of​ TV advertisements. These advertisements were designed to​ discredit travel agents. One in​ particular,​ indicated that travel agents ADDED commission to​ tour operators' prices and therefore charged the​ client MORE than the​ quoted prices. This is​ totally inaccurate and resulted in​ complaints to​ the​ ITC (Independent Television Commission),​ which were upheld. the​ ITC also required the​ broadcaster to​ cease further transmission of​ the​ advertisement in​ its current form.The truth is,​ clients booking through travel agents do NOT pay more than the​ operator's quoted prices. in​ many cases,​ they actually pay less than the​ operator's quoted price because travel agents often give some of​ their commission back to​ the​ client as​ a​ discount. Further details and the​ ITC's ruling is​ available here.Right,​ that's that out of​ the​ way - back to​ the​ question and the​ answer...Generally,​ there is​ little advantage buying direct from a​ tour operator who also sells through travel agents. the​ tour operators do not want to​ alienate the​ travel agents and consequently,​ you​ can usually get similar prices from both travel agents and 'direct'.Tour operators who only sell direct to​ the​ public can offer good value. They don't pay commission to​ travel agents which should allow them to​ sell holidays a​ little cheaper than if​ they did. However,​ bear in​ mind that:

* the​ tour operator has the​ extra cost of​ supporting the​ client that would traditionally be borne by the​ travel agent (resort and accommodation information,​ visa and health requirements,​ changes to​ bookings etc).

* there could well be identical (or very similar holidays) available cheaper with other tour operators,​ but of​ course,​ the​ direct sell operator will not be offering competitors products to​ the​ client,​ unlike a​ good independent travel agent would. Equally there could be more suitable holidays available with other tour operators.Our advice: - only buy from a​ 'direct sell' operator if​ you​ are absolutely sure exactly which holiday you​ want and that no other operator does it​ cheaper.

TRAVEL AGENTS
=============
Travel Agents are agents for tour operators. Generally,​ they sell package holidays (and other products/services) on​ behalf of​ the​ tour operator and are paid a​ commission or​ fee by the​ tour operator for doing so. in​ addition to​ package holidays,​most travel agents will offer other products and services such as:

* Travel Insurance
* Flights
* Car Hire
* Ferry Crossing
* Train Tickets
* Advice and information

Independence
==========
Many of​ the​ large UK chains of​ High Street travel agents actually belong to​ companies that also own the​ UK's major tour operators. We class these as​ 'non-independent'.Independent travel agents are those that are independent of​ their suppliers,​ and usually,​ therefore,​ have greater freedom to​ supply a​ wider range of​ products from a​ wider range of​ tour operators in​ our view,​ non-independent travel agents will always have great difficulty in​ offering a​ totally unbiased service to​ their clients.

Range of​ Products/Services
====================
The range of​ products/services offered varies from travel agent to​ travel agent. in​ particular,​ the​ number of​ tour operators supported by agents varies considerably.Most 'High Street' travel agents will actively promote and sell only certain tour operators' holidays. Their 'racking policies' dictate which brochures they will display in​ their shops and this is​ generally determined by commercial agreements with tour operators. Basically,​ the​ more commission the​ operator pays,​ the​ better chance of​ their brochures being racked. Further,​ if​ a​ travel agent is​ non-independent,​ this can greatly influence which tour operators are promoted.These policies limit the​ number of​ tour operators that are actively promoted by sales staff. Holidays from many operators are not sold at​ all.At Holiday Bargains,​ we are often asked by our clients,​ " Well why did Lunn Poly not offer me that one?" (for "Lunn Poly",​ you​ can also read other 'High Street' travel agents). the​ difference is​ that we do not operate a​ 'racking policy' and we will not restrict our range of​ suppliers based on​ the​ commission that they pay. more Coincidently,​ at​ the​ time of​ writing this document,​ one of​ our Holiday Bargains consultants has had an​ enquiry from an​ employee of​ a​ major 'High Street' travel agent,​ who was,​ apparently,​ unable to​ find the​ holiday she required at​ the​ same price as​ we could get. (We found the​ holiday with a​ smaller operator which isn't part of​ the​ same group as​ the​ travel agent).

Choosing a​ Travel Agent
==================
(Yes,​ its obvious what's coming,​ but we passionately believe it..) Our advice is​ to​ always book through an​ independent travel agent.This will not guarantee excellent service and prices,​ nor will booking with a​ non-independent agent guarantee poor service and prices. However,​ we believe that you​ will be more likely to​ get:
* truly independent advice and guidance
* an​ agent with the​ freedom to​ use a​ wide range of​ tour operators and other suppliers.




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