British consumers gave High Street travel agents plaudits for their expertise, time savings, and protection from unforeseen events, according to recent consumer surveys. And a growing number of U.K. consumers are open to using travel agents in the future, one survey found.
But other findings about how U.K. travelers view travel agents are less than rosy.
For instance, consumers do not see agents as the most convenient way to book, according to a survey by Mintel, a U.K.-based market research firm. Also, the value of “expertise” does not seem to resonate with the mass market of British travelers, according to that same survey.
Face time with experts
Potentially good news for agents came from U.K. tour operator Kuoni. The desire for face-to-face contact with a travel expert when booking leisure travel was one of four key trends among its high-end clientele, according to its Travel Trends Report for 2012.
Kuoni’s customers are looking for expert travel advice – especially for their dream vacations to far-away places.
Kuoni’s response has been to strengthen its direct-to-consumer retail presence. In the last three years, Kuoni has bolstered its High Street retail presence by opening 21 boutique travel stores.
Favorable shift in attitude
Mintel reported good news and bad news for High Street agents.
Its December Travel Agents-UK report found a positive shift in consumer attitudes toward travel agents. Last year, one in four consumers said they were open to using a high street agency for future bookings. That was up from one in five in Mintel’s 2010 study.
The not-so-good news: only 14% of consumers said travel agents were the most convenient way to book – down from nearly 20% in 2010, according to Mintel.
Saves time & money
Saving time was the most popular reason to use a travel agent, supplanting consumer protection, now cited second-most often, according to Mintel.
Saving money, trip type/complexity and specialization were third, fourth and fifth on Mintel’s list of reasons for booking through a travel agency.
A fairly positive view of travel agency usage in the U.K. was painted in the 2011 Consumer Trends Survey, released by the British trade group ABTA last fall.
More than half, 53%, of the U.K.’s foreign holiday travelers had booked through a High Street agency, according to ABTA.
Women more than men
Women (57%) were more favorable to using High Street agents than were men (49%), according to ABTA.
In a surprising result, travel agents “rule” among members of the digital generation, according to the survey.
Nearly one-third (32%) of 16- to 24-year-olds booked via travel agents – the highest percentage of all age groups.
In contrast, 45- to 54-year-olds shunned High Street agents – only 15% of that group used High Street agencies, according to the ABTA survey.