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Travel Agents - UK - December 2013

“As the advent of concept stores shifts the role of stores towards offering an inviting experience rather than just facilitating transactions, travel agents need to avoid declaring a given store a success or failure based on in-store sales. The maintenance of a loss-making, but high-footfall store should instead be viewed as a marketing cost, helping to build brand strength and awareness and boosting sales through other channels.”

– Harry Segal, Research Analyst

Some questions answered in this report include:

  • How will the launch of new concept stores affect the market?
  • What will the Package Travel Directive reform mean for bricks-and-mortar travel agents?
  • What role will shops play in the evolving multichannel sales model?
  • How can sales personnel adapt to meet consumer demands?

The bricks-and-mortar travel agents market continues to be impacted by the shift to online bookings; the penetration of in-store purchases has fallen from 25% to 18% over the past year. The industry faces a number of challenges over the coming year, including increasing mobile internet penetration and revisions to the Package Travel Directive that grant additional financial protection to dynamic packages such as click-through holiday products bought online.

The advent of high-tech concept stores that emphasise casual browsing provide an opportunity for the bricks-and-mortar industry to remain relevant in the holiday planning and booking process, but travel agents will be challenged to convert high footfall into in-store sales.

This report examines the use of bricks-and-mortar travel agents by UK residents and forecasts how the market will perform over the next five years. It explores the challenges and opportunities that operators will face in the future and investigates the core drivers behind changes in the market. Key innovations in the market are also explored.

The report also examines consumer attitudes towards travel agents, broader attitudes towards researching and booking holidays and also explores what would make travel agents more appealing to UK consumers. 

  • Travel agencies are defined as outlets at which holidays or other leisure travel products are purchased, including high street retailers and direct selling companies, many of which now operate online. Although the latter are considered in the report, the focus remains on offline operations.
  • Independent travel agents are those that have no links, in terms of ownership, with any tour operators and thus have the ability to sell any holiday from any operator. This compares to the vertically integrated travel agents owned by large travel groups that are heavily biased towards selling their own products, although they do sell holidays from other operators.
  • An adult, for the purposes of Mintel’s research, is anyone aged 16 or over.
  • The report focuses on leisure holidays, as opposed to business trips or visiting friends and relatives. A holiday must include at least one night’s stay in paid accommodation


The standard travel and tourism definitions used in the terminology of this report are as follows:

  • Tourism is any travel which involves at least one overnight stay away from home.
  • A holiday is a subjectively defined form of tourism, as defined by the tourist in response to surveys such as the IPS. A holiday can be distinguished from other leisure travel such as visits to friends and relatives (VFR) or shopping trips.
  • Short-haul refers destinations within Europe. The following destinations are considered to be short-haul: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus EU, Cyprus Non-EU, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Other Europe.
  • Long-haul refers to destinations outside of Europe.
  • The Canaries are included as a part of the Spanish market, and Madeira and the Azores are included as part of the Portuguese market.
  • A package holiday is defined as the simultaneous sale of at least two elements of a holiday to the traveller: fares on public transport (eg flights) and commercial accommodation (eg hotel or self-catering apartment). Other elements, such as meals or excursions, are not essential to the definition of an inclusive tour. The term ‘all-inclusive’ is used to describe a special type of resort holiday in which food, drink, excursions and other services are provided as part of the total holiday cost.
  • An independent holiday is one in which the traveller organises and books transport and accommodation from separate sources (eg a Channel ferry crossing and a caravan site in France).

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction

      • Definition
        • Abbreviations
        • Executive Summary

            • The market
              • Holidays booked in-store down 13% over five years
                • Figure 1: Estimated number of holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
              • Travel agents have maintained their share of overseas holidays
                • Figure 2: Estimated number of overseas holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
              • The domestic segment has grown, but penetration remains low
                • Figure 3: Estimated number of domestic holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
              • Market factors
                • Draft Package Travel Directive leaves a lot of questions unanswered
                  • Market spared high-profile failures
                    • ABTA membership numbers have fallen, but branch office numbers are up
                      • Mobile internet penetration hits half of UK adults
                        • Market share
                          • Thomas Cook has maintained its lead, despite store closures
                            • Figure 4: Top 10 UK travel agents, by number of retail stores, including concessions and partner stores, November 2013
                          • The consumer
                            • Travel agent shops play a vital role, outside of just in-store sales
                              • Figure 5: Travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013
                            • Half of non-users think booking online is cheaper and quicker
                              • Figure 6: Reasons for not booking through a travel agent shop, October 2013
                            • A price matching service would appeal to a third of adults
                              • Figure 7: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, October 2013
                            • Decline in in-store bookings looks set to continue
                              • Figure 8: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, October 2013
                            • What we think
                            • Issues in the Market

                                • How will the launch of new concept stores affect the market?
                                  • What will the Package Travel Directive reform mean for bricks-and-mortar travel agents?
                                    • What role will shops play in the evolving multichannel sales model?
                                      • How can sales personnel adapt to meet consumer demands?
                                      • Trend Application

                                          • Return to the Experts
                                            • Let's Make a Deal
                                              • Mintel Futures: Generation Next
                                              • Market Drivers

                                                • Key points
                                                  • Draft Package Travel Directive set to impact in-store sales
                                                    • Market spared high-profile failures
                                                      • Figure 9: ATOL tour operator failures/closures in the UK, October 2012-November 2013
                                                    • ABTA membership numbers have fallen, but branch office numbers are up
                                                      • Figure 10: ABTA membership, March 2012 and March 2013
                                                      • Figure 11: ABTA new membership numbers, January 2012-September 2013
                                                    • Mobile internet penetration hits half of UK adults
                                                      • Figure 12: Home internet access and mobile internet access among UK adults, Q1 2008-Q1 2013
                                                  • Who’s Innovating?

                                                    • Key points
                                                      • Thomas Cook, TUI, Virgin and STA all unveil high-tech concept stores
                                                        • STA strikes industry first, offering guaranteed airfares for a £49 deposit
                                                          • TUI places agents in direct contact with holiday reps around the world
                                                            • DreamCatcher allows agents to earn commission from online sales
                                                              • Destinology system allows agents to compete with direct-sell rivals
                                                              • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                • Key points
                                                                  • Holidays booked in-store down 13% over five years
                                                                    • Figure 13: Estimated number of holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
                                                                  • Contraction in the market will continue through to 2018
                                                                    • Figure 14: Estimated number of holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
                                                                  • Forecast methodology
                                                                  • Segment Performance

                                                                    • Key points
                                                                      • Travel agents have maintained their share of overseas holidays…
                                                                        • Figure 15: Estimated number of overseas holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
                                                                      • …but will not benefit from recovery in the wider overseas segment
                                                                        • Figure 16: Estimated number of overseas holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
                                                                      • The domestic segment has grown, but penetration remains low
                                                                        • Figure 17: Estimated number of domestic holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
                                                                      • Domestic bookings in-store to increase to 2.7 million by 2018
                                                                        • Figure 18: Estimated number of domestic holidays booked via travel agents, 2008-18
                                                                    • Market Share

                                                                      • Key points
                                                                        • Thomas Cook maintains its lead, despite store closures
                                                                          • Figure 19: Top 10 UK travel agents, by number of retail stores, including concessions and partner stores, November 2013
                                                                        • A range of brands are set on expanding their store portfolios
                                                                          • Midcounties’ fledgling Co-op Consortium has enjoyed rapid growth
                                                                            • Advantage retains Barrhead and welcomes members from Worldchoice
                                                                            • Companies and Products

                                                                                • Thomas Cook Group PLC
                                                                                    • Figure 20: Financial performance of Thomas Cook Group PLC, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                    • Figure 21: Financial performance of Thomas Cook Retail Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                  • TUI
                                                                                      • Figure 22: Financial performance of TUI Travel PLC, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                    • Advantage Travel Centres Limited
                                                                                        • Figure 23: Financial performance of Advantage Travel Centres Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                      • The Co-op Consortium
                                                                                        • The Travel Network Group (Worldchoice UK Limited)
                                                                                            • Figure 24: Financial performance of Worldchoice Travel Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                            • Figure 25: Financial performance of Worldchoice UK Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                            • Figure 26: Financial performance of TTA (2007) Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                          • The Global Travel Group
                                                                                              • Figure 27: Financial performance of The Global Travel Group Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                            • Flight Centre (UK) Limited
                                                                                                • Figure 28: Financial performance of Flight Centre (UK) Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                              • STA Travel Limited
                                                                                                  • Figure 29: Financial performance of STA Travel Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                • Virgin Holidays Limited
                                                                                                    • Figure 30: Financial performance of Virgin Holidays Limited, 2012 and 2013
                                                                                                  • Kuoni Travel Ltd
                                                                                                      • Figure 31: Financial performance of Kuoni Travel Limited, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                  • Brand Research

                                                                                                    • Brand map
                                                                                                        • Figure 32: Attitudes towards and usage of brands in the travel agent sector, September 2013
                                                                                                      • Correspondence analysis
                                                                                                        • Brand attitudes
                                                                                                          • Figure 33: Attitudes, by travel agent brand, September 2013
                                                                                                        • Brand personality
                                                                                                          • Figure 34: Travel agent brand personality – macro image, September 2013
                                                                                                          • Figure 35: Travel agent brand personality – micro image, September 2013
                                                                                                        • Brand experience
                                                                                                          • Figure 36: Travel agent brand usage, September 2013
                                                                                                          • Figure 37: Satisfaction with various travel agent brands, September 2013
                                                                                                          • Figure 38: Consideration of travel agent brands, September 2013
                                                                                                          • Figure 39: Consumer perceptions of current travel agent brand performance, September 2013
                                                                                                        • Brand index
                                                                                                          • Figure 40: Travel agent brand index, September 2013
                                                                                                        • Target group analysis
                                                                                                          • Figure 41: Target groups, September 2013
                                                                                                          • Figure 42: Travel agent brand usage, by target groups, September 2013
                                                                                                        • Group One – Conformists
                                                                                                          • Group Two – Simply the Best
                                                                                                            • Group Three – Shelf Stalkers
                                                                                                              • Group Four – Habitual Shoppers
                                                                                                                • Group Five – Individualists
                                                                                                                • The Consumer – Use of Travel Agents

                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                    • A third of holidaymakers bought a holiday in-store in the last two years
                                                                                                                      • Figure 43: Travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013
                                                                                                                    • Travel agent shops play a vital role, outside of just in-store sales
                                                                                                                      • Under-25s are the most likely to have bought a product in-store
                                                                                                                        • Usage is lowest among the higher earners, wealthy achievers and ABs
                                                                                                                        • The Consumer – Reasons for Not Booking using a Travel Agent

                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                            • Half of non-users think booking online is cheaper and quicker
                                                                                                                              • Figure 44: Reasons for not booking through a travel agent shop, October 2013
                                                                                                                            • A quarter of non-users would book online to avoid speaking to staff
                                                                                                                              • Just 2% cite lack of a nearby shop as a reason for non-use
                                                                                                                              • The Consumer – What Would Make Travel Agents More Appealing?

                                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                                  • A price matching service would appeal to a third of adults
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 45: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, October 2013
                                                                                                                                  • New concept stores could perform well…
                                                                                                                                    • …but there is less demand for expanding the concession model
                                                                                                                                      • A quarter of the adult population will remain off limits to travel agent shops
                                                                                                                                      • The Consumer – Attitudes Towards Researching and Booking a Holiday

                                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                                          • Decline in in-store bookings looks set to continue
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 46: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, October 2013
                                                                                                                                          • Comparison sites remain a key challenge for retail stores
                                                                                                                                            • Financial protection is a key driver behind in-store sales
                                                                                                                                              • Brand recognition is a key benefit to having a strong high street presence
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – Brand Research

                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 47: Brand usage, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 48: Brand commitment, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 49: Brand momentum, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 50: Brand diversity, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 51: Brand satisfaction, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 52: Brand attitude, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 53: Brand image – macro image, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 54: Brand image – micro image, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 55: Profile of target groups, by demographics, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 56: Psychographic segmentation, by target groups, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 57: Brand usage, by target groups, September 2013
                                                                                                                                                • Brand index
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 58: Brand index, September 2013
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – The Consumer – Use of Travel Agents

                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 59: Travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 60: Travel agent use by holidaymakers in the last two years, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 61: Travel agent use in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 62: Travel agent use in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 63: Travel agent use in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 64: Travel agent use in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 65: Travel agent use by holidaymakers in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 66: Travel agent use by holidaymakers in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 67: Travel agent use by holidaymakers in the last two years, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – The Consumer – Reasons for Not Booking using a Travel Agent

                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 68: Reasons for not booking through a travel agent shop, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 69: Reasons for not booking through a travel agent shop, by demographics, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 70: Reasons for not booking through a travel agent shop, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – The Consumer – What Would Make Travel Agents More Appealing?

                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 71: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 72: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, by demographics, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 73: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 74: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, by travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 75: What would make travel agent shops more appealing, by travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 76: Travel agent use in the last two years, by what would make travel agent shops more appealing, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 77: Travel agent use in the last two years, by what would make travel agent shops more appealing, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – The Consumer – Attitudes Towards Researching and Booking a Holiday

                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 78: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 79: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, by demographics, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 80: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, by demographics, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 81: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, by travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 82: Attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, by travel agent use in the last two years, October 2013 (continued)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 83: Travel agent use in the last two years, by attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 84: Travel agent use in the last two years, by attitudes towards researching and booking a holiday, October 2013 (continued)

                                                                                                                                              Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                              • Advantage Travel Centres
                                                                                                                                              • Bales Worldwide
                                                                                                                                              • Celebrity Cruises
                                                                                                                                              • First Choice Holidays & Flights Ltd
                                                                                                                                              • Flight Centre (UK) Ltd
                                                                                                                                              • House of Fraser Plc
                                                                                                                                              • Intrepid Travel
                                                                                                                                              • John Lewis Partnership
                                                                                                                                              • Kuoni Travel Ltd
                                                                                                                                              • M&C Saatchi Worldwide Ltd
                                                                                                                                              • Midcounties Co-operative Ltd
                                                                                                                                              • News International PLC
                                                                                                                                              • Post Office Limited
                                                                                                                                              • STA Travel
                                                                                                                                              • The Global Travel Group
                                                                                                                                              • Thomas Cook Airlines
                                                                                                                                              • Thomas Cook Group PLC
                                                                                                                                              • Tourism Australia
                                                                                                                                              • Travel Foundation (The)
                                                                                                                                              • Travel Trust Association
                                                                                                                                              • Travelport
                                                                                                                                              • TUI Travel PLC
                                                                                                                                              • TUI UK
                                                                                                                                              • Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited
                                                                                                                                              • Virgin Holidays
                                                                                                                                              • Worldchoice Travel

                                                                                                                                              Travel Agents - UK - December 2013

                                                                                                                                              £1,995.00 (Excl.Tax)