Hotel executives who lead some of the largest lodging companies in the world see an ongoing role for travel agents, especially at the luxury end of the market.
That’s the message from executives who spoke with Travel Market Report at the annual NYU Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York earlier this month.
They all had positive words for traditional agents even as the overall tone of the conference continued to range from grudging respect to outright hostility for OTA’s. Here is a sampling of what the hoteliers said.
What agents do best
“If you’re traveling to someplace new, you do not want to rely on the internet; you want to talk to a human being. We have more calls to our call centers than ever because people want to talk to someone and that’s why travel agents will continue to do well. And we like that business because the commission is lower than what we pay to the OTA’s.” — Eric Danziger, CEO, Hampshire Hotels
“Agents will always have a role when it comes to higher end business. At that level the customer wants a lot of tender loving care – and somebody they can talk to.” — Christopher Nassetta, CEO, Hilton Hotels
“As you move up the chain scale into luxury, travelers are looking for a more personal experience. And they are now doing more kinds of things that call for the kind of personal touch that a travel agent can bring.” — Paul Cahill, area vice president, Canada, Marriott Hotels
“At the higher end, travel agents are key. We find that even luxury travelers who search social media for recommendations and advice will not buy on those platforms. They will want to talk to someone at some point – and that someone is often an agent. At our Surrey Hotel in New York, which is a luxury property, a full half of our reservations are made by calls to the hotel – and some of those calls are from agents.” — Patrick Denihan, CEO of Denihan Hospitality (operates the Affinia and James brands)