Sector Insight (interactive): travel agents

High-street travel agents have been hit hard by online research and booking, writes Jane Bainbridge.


Internet. High-street agents have suffered as consumers go online to research and book holidays; 42% of adults think this is cheaper or offers better value.

Market size. In 2012 18.6m holidays were booked via travel agents, down 13% since 2008 (21.7m). By 2017 it is predicted to drop a further 11% to 16.6m.

Long-haul holidays. The decline in travel agents has largely been ascribed to a fall in their use for booking long-haul holidays.

Domestic holidays. Bookings for these through travel agents has doubled since 2007 to 2.3m domestic holidays.

Motives. Saving time and ensuring protection while on holiday are the two most common reasons behind people using a high-street travel agent.

Demographics. Travel agents are most used by 65- to 74-year-olds and least by 55- to 64-year-olds. More than 40% of ABs have taken a holiday without using an agent at all.

Source: Mintel

Leading travel agents by number of retail outlets*, October 2012

*includes ABTA travel shops, other ABTA retail (eg business travel shops & call centres) and other outlets (non-ABTA)

Source: BP Travel Marketing/Company information/Mintel

Research sources used for holidays/short breaks in the last 12 months, 2010-12

Base: adults aged 15+ *filtered by field work period (Jul 2009-Mar 2010) Taken from the TGI survey of about 25,000 adults. Source: GB TGI, Kantar Media UK Ltd Q3 2010-2012 (Apr-Mar)/Mintel

Main players

Mike Hoban, Sales, marketing and ecommerce director, Thomas Cook

Hoban joined the travel company in November after two-and-half years as chief marketing officer at Previous marketing roles include stints at Directgov, Scottish Widows, Barclaycard, British Airways and WH Smith.

Jeremy Ellis, marketing director, TUI

With overall responsibility for TUI's brands, primarily Thomson and First Choice, Ellis leads brand strategy, advertising, CRM and PR.

A TUI lifer, he joined as a graduate trainee in 1991, working through various marketing and product development roles. He became marketing director in December 2011.

Colin O'Neill, sales and marketing director, Advantage Travel Centres

O'Neill has held this position at the independent travel agency for 12 years. Previous experience includes Rothmans International before entering the travel sector with Sealink and Thomson Holidays, later becoming group sales director at Forte Hotels.

Laurence Bresh, marketing director, STA Travel

In November Bresh joined STA Travel having been director of marketing at VisitBritain since July 2009. Before that he was regional director for Europe and had also been general manager for England marketing on EnjoyEngland. He began his tourism career at the British Tourism Authority in 2001.



Winners and losers in the travel agents sector

Virgin Holidays. Has gone from 49 retail stores in February 2011 to 100 in June 2012, often in the form of concessions within department stores.

Advantage Consortium. Expanded rapidly during 2012 through strategic acquisitions and partnerships. Northern Ireland-based Consort, Midcounties Co-operative Travel and Wales-based The Travel House are some brands to have joined.

TUI. Is expanding its online business and revamping its retail outlets to 'Thomson ... featuring First Choice'. It plans to open an Apple-style digital concept retail store this year, which will be rolled out more widely if successful.

Thomas Cook. It has held on to its market-leading position in this difficult climate. However, the company is undertaking a shop-closure programme and plans to close its Bradford call centre by the end of March. It did achieve the most mentions online (Brandwatch, December-January), but attracted negative conversations about its aircraft and customer service.

Hays Travel. In Mintel's brand research Hays was the least-trusted of the brands and the only one where more people considered it to be falling behind rather than moving forward. However, it achieved a 16.2% positive net promoter score.

Source: Mintel


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