Why did consumers switch from the high street travel agent to booking online in the first place?
The main reason was price followed by the convenience of booking online. As internet access became more and more accessible people found they could book their holiday during their tea break at work for example. High street travel agents held the monopoly for a long time and while there were enticing offers on their shop front windows to get consumers to book now for € 1 there was no real money saving because to get these Special offers you had to purchase the travel insurance that was on offer and this was a lot more than could be brought independently.Book online and there is no obligation to purchase expensive travel insurance in order to make use of the special offers. The prices are cheaper and you can book 24/7
Book through a High street travel agent and you have a friendly face that you can speak to and who can advise you.
Personally I believe that there is plenty of opportunity for both online and high street travel agents to flourish. Technology and personalised customer service will need to combine to give the best of both worlds so to speak.
Having said that, there are two definite types of consumers;
Group 1) This group prefers the convenience of online booking
Group 2) This group may be made up of travellers over the age of 70 and those who have never used the internet or simple because they have always booked with ‘Sue at Happy Travels and will continue to do so’ The two groups can be separated by how much they know about technology.
Which ever group, it’s clear that both used to rely on personal recommendation. These days consumers tend to base their decisions on consumer reviews either through the internet or newspapers for example
Can the high street travel agent make a come back?
As I mentioned before, I believe there is opportunity for both online and high street travel agents to flourish and work side by side. Only at the beginning of this month a new travel agency has opened near Blackpool. Past figures show that 1,400 high street travel agencies have closed in the past 10 years.
While the package type high street agents closed branches to save money, more upmarket agencies are spending rather than saving. They are catering for consumers who demand a ‘Luxury consulting service’ in such branches consumers need to make appointments and the new agencies will even incorporate a bar and open till the late evening.
The future of online travel will also change. The introduction of videos and specially designed websites that can be accessed on mobile phones will appeal to the technology minded and those always on the move