Merton travel agents hit back at online booking


Merton travel agents hit back at survey that says online booking is affecting sales


By Ben Baker, Gemma Thornton, Nick Webster, Charlie Byrne and Rachel Hunter

Holiday-makers are helping Merton travel agents compete against an increasing tide of internet deals.

International travel surveyor Zagat revealed last Thursday (November 26) that only 8% of flight bookings are made through travel agents.

Online flight bookings take up 64% of the market, according to the poll of 5,895 travellers, but Wimbledon travel agents say they are bucking this trend.

Shaun Symonds, Wimbledon Flight Centre travel consultant, said: “I don’t think online bookings are affecting us.

“People don’t just want to key numbers into a computer; they want advice on the best options available.”

Mr Symonds says trade is boosted by the large number of South Africans and Australians living in the area coming in to book flights home.

The threat of internet fraud puts some Merton residents off buying flights online.

Richard Watkins, 67, has always used a travel agent after his son had a bad experience with internet fraud.

Mr Watkins said: “I am a bit old fashioned to be honest and I’m wary of giving my details out over the internet.”

Internet fraud amounts to £232.8 million in the UK according to the latest figures.

First Choice travel consultant Emma Asdon said: “Our customers don’t have to worry about fraud, it’s face-to-face and people feel a lot safer.

“A computer can’t answer questions for you – we can.”

Rashid Ahmed, 27, of Colliers Wood said: “I always book my flights online, as it’s the easiest way.

“But if I was booking a proper holiday I think I would go into an agency so someone could properly talk me through the different options and possibilities.”

Photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski

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