Kaufman says consumers need – and want – travel agents

December 22, 2009

A recent conversation with Trip Atlas “travel expert” Stephen Kaufman provided some optimistic news for travel agents. Kaufman said he had been thinking about Robbie Goldberg’s announced new venture as a tour operator with direct sales to the consumer, and said Kaufman, his research shows the opposite. That consumers, especially younger consumers, are trending toward the use of travel agents.

Kaufman says Trip Atlas has heard horror stories from (especially) young travellers who have purchased online trips to find the product on arrival at the destination not quite, or sometimes not even close to, matching the product advertised.

“The bottom line” he says, “is that our research indicates that while people may look on line, more and more they are looking to book with an expert.

“New numbers show,” says Kaufman, “that 77% of consumers research their travel online, but only 19.5% are making the actual booking themselves.

“Almost 20% buying online is a lot,” he admits, “but not in comparison to the almost 80% looking. And even more interesting, research shows that 96% of people are not 100% confident of booking online.”

Kaufman’s Trip Atlas website matches consumers with travel agents. He has 317 Canadian travel agent members who have made over 5,000 quotes this year.

“We have had tremendous success with consumers finding travel agents,” says Kaufman. “The number of consumers looking for help is overwhelming. It’s not just help with the booking, it’s all the other issues involved in travel - insurance, immigration and entry requirements, weather conditions. Consumers are beginning to realize that they need expert help.”

So, says Kaufman, while he knows, likes and respects Goldberg, he completely disagrees with his approach this time.

“I’m sure he’s done his research,” says Kaufman, “and perhaps there is a market for going direct to the consumer, but my money will always be on using a travel agent. Always.”