Types of travel agents | Understanding tourism

Jul 6, 2020 | Learn about tourism, Tourism management

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(Last updated on: 07/07/2020)

Travel agents are an important part of the tourism industry. There are several different types of travel agents. The different types of travel agents vary according to the service they provide and the products that they offer. In this article I will teach you about the different types of travel agents and provide some examples too.

Types of travel agents

What’s a travel agent?

A travel agency is a private retailer that sells travel-related products and services to consumers. This includes package holidays as well as individual holiday elements such as hotel rooms, flight tickets and travel insurance.

Travel agents typically use global distribution systems (GDS). These systems enable to travel agent staff to receive real-time updates on availability and prices and to make bookings.

Travel agencies typically take a percentage of the overall fee that a consumer pays, known as commission. Commission rates vary depending on the product and/or service that is sold. It is for this reason that consumers will sometimes pay more for a holiday booked through a travel agency than they would if they booked it directly with the suppliers.

Did you know that you can set up your own travel agency business and earn from your sofa? Find out how here!

The different types of travel agents

There are four main types of travel agents in the travel and tourism industry: high street, business, callcentre and Internet. I will explain how each of these types of travel agents work below.

High street travel agents

High street travel agents have been around for a long time. Up until only a few years ago, high street travel agents were the most popular and themes common types of travel agents.

High street travel agents are typically found in major shopping areas, such as local high streets or in shopping malls.

High street travel agents typically have an area where holiday brochures are displayed and desks for consumers to sit at and talk than travel agent. Travel agent staff are generally very knowledgeable about the products and services thatchy are selling and offer high standards of customer service.

Many people continue to prefer house high street travel agents because they enjoy the face-to-face interaction.However, fewer and fewer people have been using travel agents in recent years. This has led to the closure of many high street travel agents.

High street travel agent examples: TUI, Hays Travel, Cooperative Travel

Business travel agents

Business travel agents specialise in planning and booking travel for business purposes. Business tourism is one of the largest types of tourism. As such, this is an important type of travel agent.

Learn more about travel agencies in this handy video by Amadeus!

Business travel agents do not always have a visible high street presence. Instead, they may be tucked away in office blocks or in quiet locations.This is because they do not tend to have walk-in business.

Business travel agents typically work with companies to organise business travel. Stays tend to be shorter than ordinary holidays. Business travel agents are popular because they help to save organisations timed money, given that they are able to quickly plan itineraries and book travel the best prices.

Business travel agent examples: Crystal Corporate, Click Travel, Kanoo Corporate

Call centre travel agents

A call centre travel agent is a travel agent which is based in a call centre.

Call centre travel agents provide advice and guidance on booking your holiday via the telephone. Many major travel agencies will have call centres as wells high street shops.

Call centres have lower overheads than high street retailers because they do not have to pay premium prices for their offices- they have the flexibility to be based anywhere.

Some companies even choose to base their callcentres in developing countries, where wages and overhead costs are lower. However, this has been known to have a detrimental impact on the service offered due to language barriers and cultural differences.

Call centre travel agent examples: Flight Centre, Virgin Holidays

Internet travel agents

Internet travel agents are travel agents theatre based the Internet. This includes major travel companies as wells independent travel agents who are working from home.

Internet travel agents are the most popular types of travel agents nowadays. Many people prefer to book online.

Learn about how Internet travel agencies make money in this informative video.

Just like high street travel agents, Internet travel agents take a commission from the money paid by the consumer.

The rise of the Internet travel agent has been so significant in recent years that there is now a lot of competition in the marketplace. This helps to drive down prices and to make holidays more affordable to customers.

Internet travel agent examples: Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda

Types of travel agent businesses

The types of travel agents can also be distinguished by their business model. There are three major business models that are used: independent, multiple, miniple. I will explain what each of these are below.

Independent travel agents

An independent travel agent is an agent is a unique company. There is only one branch and it is not associated with any other travel agency stores or companies.

Independent travel agents are commonly found in small towns and villages. They are usually locally-run businesses. Because of scales of economy, independent travel agents are often not able to compete with the lower prices offered by larger types of travel agents.

Independent travel agents do not necessarily need to have physical travel agency. There are many people who are running their own, successful travel agency businesses from home. These are Internet travel agents who are operating on an independent basis.

Since COVID-19, many organisations have reduced their business travel requirements, opting instead for Zoom calls and webinars facilitated by the shut-in economy. It is predicted that this change will be irreversible and therefore that the need for business travel agents will be permanently reduced.

Multiple travel agents

A multiple travel agent is one which has a chain of branches. They are typically large organisations with a strong high street presence.

Multiple travel agents did have a monopoly of the market for many years. However, they have struggled to compete with the Internet travel agents, who have fewer overheads and are more conveniently located- on a consumer’s computer/smart device!

Miniple travel agents

Miniple travel agents are travel agents that have several branches. These are usually mid-sized companies. They are often regional.

Types of travel agents: To conclude

As you can see, the travel agency market has changed a lot in recent years. We have moved away from the traditional multiple on the high street towards an Internet-based approach when researching and booking our holidays. Nonetheless, there does continue to be a desire for travel agents, albeit largely online.

Further reading 

If you’re studying travel and tourism then I highly recommend the following texts to support your learning:

  • An Introduction to Tourism: a comprehensive and authoritative introduction to all facets of tourism including: the history of tourism; factors influencing the tourism industry; tourism in developing countries; sustainable tourism; forecasting future trends.
  • The Business of Tourism Management: an introduction to key aspects of tourism, and to the practice of managing a tourism business.
  • Tourism Management: An Introduction: gives its reader a strong understanding of the dimensions of tourism, the industries of which it is comprised, the issues that affect its success, and the management of its impact on destination economies, environments and communities.
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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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