Chances are high that you've booked holiday travel or a business trip using an agent or large online portal. Perhaps you've even booked directly with a certain hotel or airline.
But have you ever tried using a travelling travel agent?
Still a novelty on the European market, the mobile travel consultant doesn't have an office you can pop into. But for that, they're always available, even coming to a customer's home in the evening or over the weekend, along with everything for a booking, if it's necessary.
Mobile travel consultants are able, on their laptops, to access the reservation software that is available to travel agents, with the significant difference that they are extremely flexible, know their customers well and are not bound by normal office hours.
Most work part-time from home, and the overwhelming majority are women, primarily former employees of conventional travel agencies.
Kurt Koch, chief executive at German company TLT Urlaubsreisen, is confident that more and more people will soon catch on to the mobile travel agent. "We are just starting out," says Koch, who manages travel consultants for brands Take Off, Holiday Profis and Feria.
Several providers are already established on the market. Thomas Cook has operated travelNet for the past 20 years, while other major players include Amondo, Prima Urlaub, Pro Tours and Solamento.
Koch, whose company is part of the TUI group, has 700 consultants working under him, all with years of experience gained from working at conventional travel agents or in similar industries.
While they have the same offers and prices as travel agencies, mobile travel consultants differ in that they can offer a service in areas where the traditional agency cannot.
The consultant, with laptop and printer, either goes directly to the customer, or the customer can make use of special software to view on their own screen precisely what the consultant is looking at.
"You look together, make a selection, adapt it," Koch says. "We are able to replicate the travel agency experience 99% over the Internet."
Koch's consultants rarely have to travel these days, with most of their business being done this way. Customers can select their consultant via the internet on the basis of location or expertise.
Koch believes that increasingly well-informed and demanding customers will compel the sector to change.
"These days, we are still looking for customers, but with the increasing attractiveness of our offer, customers will more and more come to us," he predicts.
In contrast, Ralf Hieke, vice-president of Germany's (DRV) travel association and the owner of two traditional travel agencies, believes anyone offering a decent service will continue to have customers, whether at a travel agency or with a mobile consultant. — dpa
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