As Mark Twain might have said, if he hadn’t been occupied writing about life by the Mississippi, the death of the travel agent has been greatly exaggerated. According to a survey conducted by a top accountancy firm, the rate of travel agencies and tour operators going bust has been arrested, falling by 30% in the last five years, from 47 to 33 a year.
Of course, any travel retailer shutting its doors is a cause for concern, but these numbers from Moore Stephens do at least suggest the impact of the internet is slowing and that travel businesses are adapting to the challenges posed when consumers have a wealth of information available at the click of a button.
Except, of course, it is not always a click of a button. Putting together that dream trip or long-anticipated holiday often involves several tens if not hundreds of clicks, and who has time for that when there is (a) no guarantee the final product(s) will save any significant chunk of money and (b) be exactly what the you are looking for? And don't get me started on what is increasingly apparent: there is no reliable correlation between the volume of travel and destination information that is dumped on the web and the reliability and usefulness of that information. So start-up bloggers out there take note!
However, that's not to say the market for travel agents is not challenging - it is - but many agents are not just surviving but thriving because they have successfully adapted to these threats. As the Moore Stephens study points out, good agents have moved away from ‘vanilla’ package holidays to offer more bespoke and ‘complicated’ products, particularly niche interest holidays and specialised trips like cruise, safaris, activities and adventure, etc, where the knowledge and levels of the services they offer is highly valued by the customer.
So to end on another Mark Twain missive: The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
Enjoy this issue.