A travel agent who has sold his business to a tour operator to survive has urged trade bodies to help retailers fix what he describes as "a broken industry".
Ronnie Findlay said he was forced to sell Enjoy Holidays to the Anex Tourism Group, one of the largest operators in Turkey, to keep the company afloat. He has stayed on as commercial director.
Findlay, who built up the chain of five agencies by buying and turning around struggling retailers, said: "I’ve been offered seven businesses to buy, all with accumulated debts. We should be trying to find solutions for these businesses. The agent is dying a death of a thousand cuts."
He added: "Where is the voice of the industry? Someone has to take some leadership, whether it’s consortia or Abta. Agents need professional advice to get them back on track."
Findlay said agents’ cashflow was coming under extreme pressure due to commission cuts, earlier supplier payment dates, cruise line demands for payments direct from customers, ticket printing and price-matching costs, and dampening demand.
Agents need to take more control of pricing and product, he argued, adding: "Unless you are part of a larger group it’s extremely difficult to survive."
Following Enjoy Holidays’ acquisition, the agency has reduced cruise sales from a third of business in 2010 to a quarter and is set to launch its own tour operation by the end of the year.
It faced a drop of £2 million in cashflow out of its £8 million turnover as a result of cruise lines’ demands for direct payments and shut its cruise call centre after Complete Cruise Solution slashed commission payments to 5%. It is now considering removing cruise brochures from its shelves.
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