And the feelings were reciprocated by suppliers themselves, who say they often find it difficult to connect with independent agents and brokers who may be home based or simply harder to ‘google’ than branded stores. ‘A lot of independent agents just don’t get called on,’ says Kim Herd of Venture Travel & Events. ‘And airlines often have no idea of the sales figures and the true value of independent agents, so we can be forgotten about. ‘We’ve got niche markets and repeat business we don’t need the brand because we’ve got the loyalty from our clients.’ That said, Herd and other delegates at the conference see real value in the GTN relationshp and its position under the House of Travel umbrella. ‘You can’t just be out on your own with no affiliation,’ says Herd.
Virender Bakshi, general manager of SKYtravel, says putting faces to names and meeting suppliers one on one is a big plus. ‘I see more opportunities for land and cruise. Once (independent and ethnic) agents become well established in VFR (visiting friends and relatives) their clients move into the lesiure and corporate side – they want us to handle everything they do.’ Jill Grant, of A Walker’s World, says that while meeting suppliers was useful it was also beneficial to be in touch with other independent agents. ‘We all have different businesses with our own niche market. And its our difference that we have in common.’ Natalie Tambolash, general manager World Expeditions, says the company does all of its air ticketing through GTN. ‘With some of these suppliers (at the conference) we just don’t normally see them –even the ones we do business with. And some of them have no idea that we do FIT as well as groups. It’s good to face to face with people we don’t often face to face with.’ Jennie Burt, sales manager New Zealand with Air India says she discovered opportuities she had no idea existed. ‘This is over and above the Indian agents who we already have a relationship with. These independent agents are a harder group to identify and they do sometimes fall off the radar.’ Mohan Chandra, regional general manager of Fiji Airways, says many of the agents at the conference sell Fiji but don’t know much about the destination. ‘So I have been telling them about Fiji but also about our entire route network.’