Rewind a few years and if you wanted to book yourself a package holiday, chances are you wouldn’t think twice about visiting your local travel agent in order to book your trip. Fast forward to today however, and it’s a different story, with various online comparison sites and market disrupting tech firms like Airbnb all fighting for your cash when it comes to holiday booking time. Is there still room for traditional travel agents such as Thomas Cook and Tui in this modern age, or are they on the way out?
You’ll likely have seen the news over the last week or so that Thomas Cook has unfortunately revealed fresh financial woes, announcing a staggering £1.5 billion six months loss, and issuing its third profit warning in less than a year. The company is citing Brexit uncertainty as the primary reason for customers making fewer bookings this year, but is it all too easy to blame Brexit for something that has been a long time coming?
We thought we’d do a bit of digging and try and find out a bit more by looking at the thoughts of our Viewsbank members in last week’s Omnibus survey. Surely that could help us get to the bottom of it?
To set the scene, we asked our 1,019 respondents whether they had taken a holiday abroad in the last 5 years, with 69% (707) saying that they had. With that in mind we wanted to see how many people were likely to be going on holiday abroad this year, to see whether or not Brexit was having a significant impact on bookings. Interestingly, 67% (680) told us that, yes they had already booked or were likely to book, or they were “maybe” considering it. Not exactly a significant drop off from those who had been on holiday abroad in the last five years.
The 33% (339) who said no, were also asked why they were not planning on taking a holiday abroad this year, with just 5% (16) of those respondents stating that they were concerned about the impact of Brexit – not exactly inline with what Thomas Cook is reporting. The majority of respondents (51%, 173) simply told us that they couldn’t afford it this year, with a further 16% (53) saying they weren’t interested, and 15% (51) saying they were too busy this year.
Digging a little deeper we asked everyone who had already booked, or were likely to book a holiday abroad this year, how likely they were to use a travel agent such as Thomas Cook. Just 7% (45) of respondents reported having already booked their holiday this way. However, things are looking a little better here for travel agents here with 37% (251) respondents stating they were either likely or very likely to use a travel agent, with a further 18% (121) not sure. The remaining 39% (263) told us that they were either unlikely or very unlikely to use a travel agent.
We also wanted to know why these respondents were unlikely to use a travel agent – 51% (134) told us that they thought travel agents were too expensive, while 38% (99) said they were outdated and 32% (83) thought they were not convenient enough. Interestingly, 18% (47) said they would not book with a travel agent specifically due to being worried about the travel agent going into administration. We followed that up by asking if the recent £1.5bn loss announcement would put respondents off booking, and on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being completely put off, and 1 being not put off at all, 31% (218) of the 707 respondents who answered that question scored either a 4 or 5 here, so clearly announcements like this aren’t going to help matters.
What do you think? Do you think travel agents like Thomas Cook will be able to adapt for the future, or are they on the way out? Do you think companies have been quick to blame Brexit for other deeper issues, or do you think that it’s fair for Brexit to shoulder the blame? Let us know in the comments – we look forward to hearing what you think!