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Sun 1 Apr 2007 12:28 PM

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Travel agent interview: Zall Koohpaima

Zall Koohpaima, manager at Kanoo Holidays in Bahrain explains why there is no online match for the personal service provided by a travel agent.

ATN: How long have you been a travel agent and why did you choose this career?

I've been in the business for 12 years because I'm a people person and enjoy dealing with clients and helping them out with their travel plans. I love my job! As a child I moved around the world with my parents. I think that had a lot to do with my interest in the travel industry.

ATN: How long have you worked at your present company and what attracted you to the position?

I've been working for Kanoo holidays for eight years now and I feel my background working for Jet Set tours in Los Angeles, California, made the job very easy for me. Of course, this is a completely a different market, but at that time, the company needed someone with knowledge of western and North America travel industry.

ATN: What areas of travel does your agency specialise in?

Corporate and leisure travel. I manage the leisure side. This is what I enjoy and I can use my experience.

ATN: What areas of the business are performing particularly well at the moment and why?

I would say business travel because Bahrain is the centre of banking and investment in the Gulf area and they (the people who work in these sectors) need to travel at all times, particularly on premium classes. Leisure travel is also doing well as Bahrain is an island and for every public holiday, people like to travel for short breaks, particularly during the summer and new year holidays.

ATN: What travel trends are you noticing?

Travellers want the best value for their money and they usually know what destination they want to go to. The internet has been very helpful in this respect. They don't really care what airline they travel with as long as it is low cost and there are no stops along the way.

ATN: What are the biggest challenges of working in a travel agency?

I would say competing with online rates as people go online and find direct offers. They often wan the same deal from us.

They don't realise that there are so many restrictions on internet offers and sometimes it is a scam and they loose their money using their credit card online.

They should know they get a personal service from their travel agent at all times and if things go wrong, their travel agent will be there for them and help them out.

ATN: What future do you think Middle East travel agents will have, bearing in mind the growing popularity of online travel?

I think there is no worry for travel agents in Middle East as people in this region do not feel comfortable booking online. They want the personal touch of the travel agent, particularly for last minute bookings.

ATN: How will you continue to grow your business in the future?

With good customer service and value-for-money holidays packages.

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