Travel agents have proved their value as trustworthy experts during a period of uncertainty in the sector sparked by the failures of Thomas Cook and Super Break.

The message came from the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association as the 120-strong member group reported a surge in short break bookings as Christmas presents.

Vice-president Joanne Dooey (Love To Travel) said the sector had faced an “incredibly difficult” few months with the collapse of Thomas Cook and Super Break going into administration.

Consumer confidence was also affected by strikes at regional airports and by British Airways pilots while continued uncertainty over Brexit remained an issue.

“It has been a challenging year but the events of these past few months have demonstrated that, in this digital age, there is still a place for travel agents,” Dooey said.

“Customers trust agents to make their holiday arrangements and know that, in the unlikely event of something going wrong, there is someone they can turn to for help and advice rather than try to sort it out on their own.

“Indeed, this may be another reason why we are seeing an increase in city break bookings for Christmas gifts.

“People want gifts to be perfect and simply don’t want to take the chance of booking on their own.”

She added: “Over the last three to four weeks we have seen a real surge in people buying short breaks and experiences like theatre trips and spa days as gifts than we have in previous years. Our members are also reporting that it is more men than women who are buying these.

“I think there are a number of factors at play here. Firstly, there are some amazing deals to be had on European city breaks just now. For example, flying from Edinburgh to Nuremberg City in Germany for two nights in a four-star hotel, you would expect to pay £177 per person – saving about £100 per person on the same holiday last year.

“In Scotland, we don’t have a huge number of direct long-haul flights, but we do have an abundance of short-haul city break destinations from regional airports.

“This makes European destinations incredibly attractive for short breaks, but in addition to overseas breaks we are also selling higher than average UK destinations for concerts, theatre shows and spa days.

“I think that there is an element of keeping up with the Joneses – people want to out-do their friends and family with gift ideas – but customers also want to give experiences and make memories, rather than a piece of jewellery that might end up sitting in the back of the drawer.”