“The rapid growth in the number of agencies was not unnatural considering the number of tickets being sold. But that rate has dropped off, and teeth are now being sharpened to grab a slice of the smaller cake. Standards are being raised and technology is being brought in which will ultimately benefit the customer most.”
At the Gulf’s first travel agency, Kanoo, the regional travel manager in Bahrain, Haider Hassan Ali, said his company’s name helped to attract custom. “We are known; we have a good reputation and back-up, and these factors have contributed to continued success.”
This success has resulted in a continued expansion of the company’s activities, particularly in the holiday tour division, which later this year adds Sicily, Nepal, Penang and South America to its list of destinations.
Mr All added: “We are always assessing the nature and quality of our product we have to do this to stay ahead because the people who come through our doors are becoming much more sophisticated and demanding.”
Not so long ago Kanoo was one of a handful of agencies in Bahrain which included Gray Mackenzie Travel, part of the Inchcape Group and now re-named Bahrain Maritime and Mercantile International.
BMMI’s travel manager, Abdul Rahman Jaffar, said: “With the large
In this cut-throat market it’s a slog to sell each ticket’
number of agencies here now there is a case for a travel agents’ association. “There has been a desire to start an association in Bahrain, and I think it will come. It is something which will benefit the industry and the customer as the market becomes more competitive and discounting increases.”
The problem of discounting has been discussed heatedly up and down the Gulf. And Gulf Air earlier this year warned inter-continental carriers coming through the region about what it considered unfair discounting. Gulf Air warned that government action could cancel those airlines’ flight rights.
In the UAE the Board of Airline Representatives in Dubai and Abu Dhabi got together to combat the problem, but as one agent commented: “It needs very strict control because it only takes one person to start the ball rolling. But I believe good service will win in the end.”
In the Emirates DNATA has made the biggest impact with its large number of travel shops. It continues to expand, and its involvement in next year’s Travel Fair is likely to benefit the industry even if only to focus attention on problem areas.