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Travel with a personal touch

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Travel with a personal touch

With the net making holiday booking ever easier, are travel agencies in trouble? Not really, says GS Travel, who’ve been helping jet-setters in the region for 18 years.

KS: You claim to offer the ‘lowest air-fares in kansai’ – how is that possible?
GS Travel General Manager, Rumiko Tomomichi: Because of our strong connections with both the airlines and ticket wholesalers and also because of the sheer volume of passengers we are ticketing for each month. That gives us negotiating power to get the best price for our customers.

KS: What are the advantages for customers booking with you, rather than direct with the airlines online?
Tomomichi: The most important difference is that we care about you as an individual. When booking online direct with the airlines, they don’t care about your passport details, expiration date or visa requirements etc. The website may flash a warning message, but ultimately it is up to you. We on the other hand, provide a total service, that includes checking your passport is up to date and you have the correct re-entry stamps and visas. Another point is that booking with us means if there are any problems, or your flight gets delayed, we can help you sort it out. If you have booked direct with one or multiple airlines, you may find yourself in trouble. In fact, just yesterday a customer called us for help from Narita airport, where his flight had been cancelled. He didn’t speak Japanese and his English was limited and he told us that the airline had put him on another flight. We checked the times and realized straight away that if he had taken that flight there was no way he could have made his connection. We were able to sort it out with the airline and get him on a different flight on a different day.

KS: What effect have low-cost carrier airlines had on the industry?
Tomomichi: Obviously it hasn’t been good for business, but it also hasn’t been as bad as we had first feared. Interestingly, we are finding that roughly half of the customers that book and fly with the LCC airlines a few times, have told us they won’t fly with them again. They are attracted by the cheap fares at first, but realise that they prefer someone to take care of them and so come to an agent like us. It’s also important to understand that the bargain fares you see advertised by the LCCs are actually extremely difficult to book. If you do end up with a ticket to Seoul for ¥2,000, for example, you should count yourself extremely lucky. There are very few seats available on any on flight for the cheapest fares. At the end of the day, there is a realistic base price for any flight. For Seoul that would be somewhere in the region of ¥20,000–30,000. One good thing about the LCCs is that they are opening up international travel to people that may otherwise not travel at all. That can only be a good thing for the industry in general.

KS: Are you having to do anything to attract customers back from the LCCs?
Tomomichi: No, not really. There will always be those people that think the LCCs are great and they will continue to book direct with them regardless of anything we do. It is the customers who prefer the human touch and that book with us time and time again that we focus on. We have a lot of repeat business. Most of our business is conducted over the phone or by email. People in Kansai love to talk after all.

KS: How do you see the traditional travel agency evolving over the next 5–10 years?
Tomomichi: I don’t see any major changes really. I believe there will always be a need for our services. It is possible that a trend may emerge for agencies to do away with a physical office, but at GS Travel we will keep the counter service for as long as it is required.

KS: finally, any other tips to get the best deal?
Tomomichi: Ticket booking is not as simple as it seems. There are a multitude of ticket combinations and choices that simply don’t appear in online search results, especially if you are planning a journey with stopovers or connecting flights. If you are looking for the best deal, it pays to get a human involved.

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GSTravel
302 Wadayoshi Bldg., 1-13-21,
Higashi-Shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku
Osaka (See Shinsaibashi map D2)
Tel: 06-6281-1230
www.gs-travel.com
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