Increasing numbers of mature travellers are turning to travel agents to book holidays because of the complexity of Covid rules and restrictions.

Panellists on a Travel Weekly webcast about mature travel trends said older consumers are seeking the advice and reassurance offered by agents, either those in high street shops or homeworkers.

Debbie Marshall, Silver Travel Advisor managing director, said her website’s research showed a definite increase in the use of travel agents since the start of the pandemic.

“People like the idea of the comfort and confidence through talking to a real person, as opposed to using other channels.”

Paul Hardwick, head of commercial at Fred Olsen Travel, agreed, saying: “We’ve had so many recommendations from people who’ve said how well we’ve handled things.”

He said the 60-plus age group is his agencies’ main demographic but now more customers in their 50s are coming to book as well, rather than looking online or making their own arrangements.

“They now feel like they want some assurance and some security. It is a minefield out there,” he said.

“There is some brilliant stuff out there – the lower deposits, and flexible terms and conditions are fantastic.

“But to understand all of that, who is offering what, you do need somebody that can give you good advice. Travel agents are way forward.”

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He highlighted one booking made for an American resident to travel home to the US this week and how much detail the consultant had discussed with the client about entry restrictions – both outbound and returning to the UK.

Another client wanted to book a package departing in March, although most bookings are for June onwards.

He agreed with another panellist – Iain Powell, head of trade sales and third-party cruise at Saga – that high street agency bookings are affected by the lockdown, which means that footfall is lower.

But homeworkers, such as Fred Olsen’s sister brand GoCruise & Travel, are performing well.

“The GoCruise & Travel guys are performing probably double what we’re doing in the shops at the moment because that’s their business: over the phone and email,” he said.

“They’re very good at it and that works really well.”

He said shop staff are still working and have put promotional material in their windows, including QR codes to enable passers-by to download the agency’s magazine onto their phone as they walk past.

Marshall said older consumers are now more internet-savvy, especially as they have been adapting to platforms such as Zoom, so walking past and downloading a QR code from a shop window is much more likely for them.