Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality Logo

Information for travel agents

News Release from Special Needs at SEA

Don’t be Fooled.  Are Your Service Providers Really Competitors in Disguise—And Pursuing Your Clients

A July Travel Pulse article headlined this warning for travel professionals, “Don’t be Fooled”, cautioning against competitors disguised as “partners” or service providers.  A recent online discussion spoke to the same issue, alerting agents to a well-known firm that on the surface provides services for travel agencies, but covertly solicits the agency’s clients directly—to sell travel.   

If this has happened to you, we’d like to hear about your experience.  If you’re not sure it has happened— or may be happening— here are a few red flags to help you determine if your service provider or vendor is a dedicated provider or a travel agency with a sideline, pursuing the same clients you are.
1. Do the provider’s brochures list their contact information and phone number prominently with small, or no space at all for “Call Your Travel Agent”?  You expect your service providers to distribute brochures.  However, if they showcase only the service providers contact information without a prompt for contacting a travel agent, you may be unknowingly promoting a competitive travel seller.  One travel agent reported that a service provider’s brochure listed the provider’s number four times in large type (22 point font size) while listing “or call your travel agent” once —on the back, in small type (6 point font).   And the brochure was designed to sell cruise vacations.  As professionals within the travel industry, we all expect the competition to be forthright and honest, not hiding behind a disguise.
2. Is the provider requesting your client list, and then reaching out to your clients without going through you or including you in the solicitation?  Even more egregious, is the provider tapping into your client list without your knowledge using the data you’ve supplied for delivery of their services or products to compete with you?  For example, if you contract a gift basket company to deliver bon voyage or thank you gifts to your clients, you do not expect that company to “thank you” by using client contact information to solicit your clients with travel offers.  Listen for indications from your clients that you have been bypassed and your trust in the provider violated.
3. Is the provider advertising or listing special offers to entice consumers to call direct, bypassing travel agents?  In one documented instance, a service provider was offering their services “free” to travelers who booked direct.  Because you sell travel, and not the services provided by outside vendors, chances are you cannot match the service provider’s “free” or discounted promotional offers for booking a trip.  This gives the service provider an unfair advantage in covertly competing for your business.
4. Does the provider routinely participate in travel or cruise nights with travel, rather than service related marketing materials?  As the leading provider of wheelchairs, oxygen, scooters and other special needs equipment for travelers, Special Needs Group regularly attends trade events and exhibits at travel trade shows to promote the range of services we provide for travel agents and their clients. However, we do not sell travel, and in no way compete with travel agents.  Our sole business function is providing wheelchairs, oxygen, scooters and other special needs equipment for travelers with disabilities.  We are dedicated to that single business format and goal. We are experts in the field of special needs equipment and are passionate about what we do.  At your next trade event, visit the exhibit booths for the companies you contract with for services or products to stay updated, but also to see what they are promoting.  It may be travel.
Special Needs Group understands what it means to be a true partner to travel agents, and remains committed to adding value for our agent partners through dedicated service and core business values that include integrity and honesty.   We never compete with travel agents, on any level, and engage in only one business----serving as a one-stop resource for special needs equipment for travelers with disabilities. 
Additionally, we work hard to keep the travel agent community informed of ways to expand their business by reaching out to the dynamic special needs marketplace; a marketplace that invests more than $13.5 billion a year in travel. 
Visit the Travel Agent pages of our website to learn more about how we can help YOU sell more travel.
Media Contact
Clarice MacGarvey
Ph: 757-651-8260