Friday, 6 July 2012

Consumer Survey finds High Street Travel Agent to remain major player in holiday market

A report by Alihoco has found that 50% of its customers still use high street travel agents in some form when booking their holidays. Following a recent report by market research company Mintel, Alihoco created a poll to its 8,000 fans to see if its own followers were complete converts to online bookings or whether they still use high street travel agents when booking a holiday.

The report by Mintel was interesting in that it suggested that 70% of people who booked a holiday last year did so entirely online with 14% happy to book online with a company they had never heard of due to offering the lowest price.  At first glance, the Mintel report appears to indicate that people have never been so relaxed about booking online and the deciding factor is often the lowest price from a variety of different websites.

The poll by Alihoco, was run on two strands. The first two questions centred on if you do, or would you still book a holiday through a high street travel agent? The second strand asked if people use high street agents to pick up a brochure and then book online, whilst the fourth option asked if people research online and then go to a travel agent to make the booking.

The results from the poll found that 73% of people would still be open to booking a holiday on the high street compared with 27% of people choosing to do so entirely online. This indicates that people do not think that the high street is outdated and more expensive than booking online. The results could also be indicative of people taking pleasure in booking a holiday on the high street and that it is part of the overall experience of booking a holiday and the start of something to look forward to.

The results from third and fourth options also make for interesting reading. It has long been argued that high street travel agents are now simply a ‘brochure pick up point’ and that consumers use brochures to choose the holiday that they would like before finding a lower price online. The results found that 50% of people do in fact use high street travel agents to pick up brochures before using the web to book but 50% of people do things in the opposite manner by doing research online before going into the store to make a booking.

It is understandable for independent travel agents and chains to be annoyed by the practice of being a brochure news stand.  Yet it also could be argued that the web has allowed customers to use less of travel agents time because they now come to the shops with the holiday that they would like and are ready to book. The web is certainly here to stay as a tool for booking and researching holidays yet it also shows that the high street will still have travel agents for a long time to come.

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