High-street travel agents lost sales to internet and telephone channels last summer but still maintained their income levels.
Official figures from industry analyst Ascent MI’s Leisure Travel Monitor show there was a shift in the way customers booked hoildays during summer 2008 away from face-to-face contact with retail agents.
Bookings made online and over the phone, including sales through agent homeworkers or call centres, made up 49% of bookings last summer – a 2% hike on summer 2007.
Meanwhile, actual passenger numbers for summer 2008 compared with summer 2007 have remained flat, reflecting capacity reductions by major operators and a more evenly matched supply of holidays to meet consumer demand.
However, traditional agents’ revenue has not been hit by the switch thanks to the increase in sales of all-inclusive holidays, which have higher average selling prices.
Ascent MI chief executive Sarah Smalley said: “There has been less face to face bookings and more call centre and online sales.”
But she said high-street agents tended to fare better at different times in the booking season and on different types of holiday bookings.
She added: “At different times in the booking season, the high-street performs better or worse than online and phone bookings. In the early booking market, the high-street tends to do better on longhaul bookings.
“There are always opportunities in challenging times. But people need to understand what is going on in the market place and the only way is through accurate data.”
The LTM monitors sales through Thomas Cook, TUI Travel, lastminute.com and more than 50% of ABTA travel agencies.
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