Peak pressure at physical travel agencies: ‘Corona has been a turning point’

Peak pressure at physical travel agencies: ‘Corona has been a turning point’
Peak pressure at physical travel agencies: ‘Corona has been a turning point’
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The early booking discounts and holiday advertisements are flying around your ears. The beginning of the year is traditionally the time when plans for the summer holidays are made. While before corona people preferred to search the internet themselves for the best deals, there is now a greater need for human contact.

Patrick Geelen of Travelzi Haelen, a small travel agency in the Limburg village of Haelen, also notices this. “I have never been as busy as the past three years,” he tells RTL News.

Geelen has been running the travel agency with his business partner Annemarie Ulijn for 26 years. Together they traveled all over the world. He calls that travel experience one of the reasons why people come to him to book a trip. “You may spend days searching on the internet. But we can provide very specific information based on our own experience. If people can no longer see the forest for the trees, we can help.”

Internet. Before corona, that was the place where people preferred to book their own trip. Select your own hotels, arrange your own flights. When corona made traveling impossible, problems arose. People did not get money back for their hotels or flights, or only after a lot of hassle.

“That period was a turning point,” says Karin de Rooij, branch manager of Het Langedijker Travel Agency in Noord-Scharwoude (North Holland). “People who booked everything themselves had to solve the problems themselves. Then they were disappointed. Now we see that people are looking for certainty and booking with a travel agency.”

‘Best year ever’

Three people work at the travel agency where De Rooij is manager. They book hundreds of trips every year. Last year the travel agency experienced ‘the best year ever’. According to De Rooij, this is because people were allowed to go everywhere again after corona, but did not want to arrange that themselves. “They were looking for trust, and we as a travel agency can provide that.”

Many De Rooij customers simply drop by the travel agency. “About ten more today,” she says. “You don’t need an appointment with us, you can just come.” And anyone who thinks it only concerns the elderly is wrong. “There are also groups of young people in front of us, who all want to go on holiday together. People in their twenties, thirties, people with small children, we see them all passing by.”

Dates

With his travel agency, Geelen arranges around 1,400 trips every year. He is also having busy weeks. Geelen lists a few days from his agenda: “Twelve appointments on Friday, nine on Saturday. These are ‘physical’ appointments at the travel agency. And then all kinds of research work comes in by email. Today alone I had five of those emails. It’s really busy.”

Just like De Rooij, Geelen’s customer base is diverse. “Young people also come to us who want to go to Mallorca, for example, and ask if we want to arrange that. And so they actually come here physically.”

Independent travel advisors

As of January 1, 2024, 492 ‘stone’ travel agencies are affiliated with the General Dutch Association of Travel Companies (ANVR). Before corona, in 2019, there were 840. That is considerably fewer, but spokesperson Frank Oostdam makes a comment.

“We have now added 950 independent travel advisors. These are usually self-employed people, without a travel agency, who come to people’s homes to sell trips. And that is successful. So you can actually say that we are making progress in terms of physical contact with customers. That also fits in with the idea that people are again looking for convenience, comfort, reliability and personal contact.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Peak pressure physical travel agencies Corona turning point

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