Face-to-face factor boosts travel agency booking values

High-street travel agents are outperforming direct-sell channels when securing high-value bookings.

Figures from market analyst GfK Ascent-MI - revealed at an Institute of Travel and Tourism Question Time event on Tuesday - showed that shops' average booking value rose £51 for summer 2009 holidays, while direct-sell prices fell by £3.

GfK Ascent-MI managing director Sarah Smalley said: "It is easier to upsell when the customer is in front of you. Shops are doing better than direct-sell at capturing value."

The Co-operative Travel group managing director Mike Greenacre said he had witnessed the same trend. "Our retail shops have remained steadfast, while non consumer-facing brands have found it tougher," he said.

Meanwhile, Smalley said bookings for winter 2009/10 look set to be hardest hit by the economic climate. Bookings this year are down 20% across the market. Direct-sell channels are faring worse, down 25%.

Travel agents are also performing better on summer 2010 bookings. So far, sales for next summer are down 10% through shops, but 22% down through direct sell. Sales increased 15% through the shops in August, compared with the same month last year.

"There have been two consecutive months of growth for agents in July and August. This could be because lots of agents have had more training recently, which helps them add value," said Smalley.

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