While we cannot fail to notice depletion within the ranks of travel agents, ABTA shrugs off such reports and claim that travel agents have survived difficult market conditions by improving their business practices.
They state that the demise of the travel agent has been proclaimed too often in the past and has proved to be premature and exaggerated:
"Most people require the services of travel agents at some stage - our Mori poll last October showed that only 6 per cent of people complete their holiday booking online" - adds an ABTA spokeswoman
The fact is that there is a growing trend among travellers to book direct through tour operators and put together their own package of flights and accommodation. While airlines and other travel related companies offer discounts on direct bookings via internet, they certainly encourage the growth of this trend, aimed at cutting out the middleman. According to recent research, just one in seven Britons now use a travel agent to book holidays.
Travel agents have brought the problems on themselves by presenting a confusing price structure and not making clear the links between agents and tour companies. While the larger travel agents focus on selling products and services provided by their parent companies, they fail to provide the service that the consumer expects to obtain: true, impartial, best advice and best prices available in the market. It is the failure to provide fair and impartial advice that results in the loss of credibility by consumers and the desire to cut out the agent.
The very reason for the existence of the travel agent industry in the first place was due to demand created by travellers and holidaymakers for reliable knowledge in respect of costs, best way to travel and local information.
Although the trend is clearly moving away from agents it is not hopeless for those agents who look at their business and focus on how they can provide such knowledge and service.
Due to the vastness of choice in resorts, accommodation, places, ways to travel and so on, the need for impartial and knowledgeable information is now greater than it has ever been.