Traditional travel agencies (TTAs) in the Philippines are welcoming a changing customer landscape that is no longer dominated by online travel agencies (OTAs), with the core reason being the comfort of having human assistance in a complex travel environment.
Dorothy Lauron-Aytona, president and general manager of Skynet Travel Corp., told TTG Asia: “Travellers appreciate that there’s a warm body to inform them, reply to their questions, and troubleshoot for them.”
She added: “When destinations were opening up after the lockdown, travellers who booked with OTAs did not know where to go and who to talk to (for) refunds for cancelled and overbooked flights as well as changes in visa processing and entry requirements for various countries.”
Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) president, Fe Abling-Yu added that as the pandemic has proven, people serving the people-oriented travel and tourism cannot be taken out of the equation.
Abling-Yu said “groups can never be online as they have requirements different from leisure travellers and some of these requirements cannot be met by the hotel.
“They have to pass through TTAs because we have to cater to their other needs, ancillary services like transport, tours and negotiating with hotels for room rates,” said Abling-Yu.
Bluewater Resorts director of sales and marketing, Margie Munsayac, recalled how hotels “had a very big percentage of online bookings” as they emerged from the pandemic, but that was only because offline operators were not back in business yet.
Even OTAs are realising the value of travel agencies and tour operators, and have started dealing with the latter within their B2B platform. “Now, OTAs have a strong B2B because they have to find other sources of income,” Munsayac said.
In a previous interview, Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) president, Loleth So, had estimated that 90 per cent of hotel bookings go through travel agencies and 10 per cent go directly to hotels.
“That’s why travel agencies or tour operator business are critical to accommodation. We have very limited resources in the hotel, but with a travel agency partner we can reach more,” So noted.
So said the channels that travellers book through are changing even as travel agencies are evolving, with OTAs, consortia, DMCs and others added to the list. A number of TTAs now have their own online platform.