Fortune favours the bold, says Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan

As we reach the end of 2019, minds turn to the year ahead. And it promises to be another year of change – and excitement. The demise of a player the size of Thomas Cook causes continued uncertainty and, for the bold, opportunity. In 2020, we should see who will be the longer-term winners and losers in numerous areas.

The high street

No awards for what all eyes will be on in 2020. How will Hays Travel trade? The move was bold – and you can see its potential. The areas of concern for me are the staff in the shops, whom I always call and know to be the crown jewels of any retail business. It will be interesting to see how weakened the Hays shops will be as a result of the recruitment of the former Thomas Cook staff by its competitors.

Homeworking businesses have taken on top sellers, Barrhead Travel has recruited whole shops worth of staff as part of its big growth plans, and miniples (such as me) have also snapped up entire shops’ teams. Currently, a lot of these shops remain closed just weeks before the peaks. What is the solution and how quickly can it be found?

Tour operators

The arrival of easyJet Holidays, both as a direct sales channel and through the trade, will no doubt cause some waves. Could it halt or slow the march of Jet2holidays? How could it affect Tui on the non-differentiated products it offers?

Who will appear from the Cook demise as the new king of tour operating? Maybe it will be other new entrants, such as the online travel agents (OTAs).

OTAs

This is another fascinating space in which the squeeze is most certainly on. These businesses thrive on low-price holidays, supported by distressed air seats. Monarch was their go-to – and it disappeared. Cook then offered the seats they needed, and now it is no more. Jet2.com prices against them on seat-only and I have no doubt easyJet will do the same, now its tour operation has launched.

The OTAs’ reaction is fascinating, with Travel Republic and On the Beach launching their own charters. Their “lite”, no-risk model as a virtual tour operator with no commitment and risk is gone. How will they manage as fully fledged tour operators with all the associated risks? They could end up making more money or becoming a casualty of a new world they didn’t want to enter. With growing Google advertising costs they are equally squeezed at the other end, acquiring clients, which makes it tough.

These three areas will combine to ensure that 2020 is going to be a fascinating year. As the boss of a high street travel agency, I have never been more optimistic about our future and trading. From being written off by many, high street agents are being talked up as having a great future. For Miles Morgan Travel, with great people at the sharp end, the future has never been in doubt. John and Irene Hays clearly think the same, but can they grow great people quickly enough, and can the family feel scale to so many shops? Buckle up for an exciting year, with lots of opportunities for the bold and canny.

Podcast: ‘Heroes of the high street’ John and Irene Hayes