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Big jump in travel agents disappearing from High Street as internet takes over

International Edition (Europe)

Interest in traditionally popular destinations such as Egypt plummets due to recent political instability Airbnb is just the latest company threatening to up-end the traditional business model of travel agents and tour operators. Travel agencies and traditional tour operators are disappearing from the High Street in sharply growing numbers as they struggle to compete with growing competition from the internet, says Wilkins Kennedy LLP, the Top-20 accountancy firm.

Rédigé par le Mardi 15 Avril 2014

According to Wilkins Kennedy, the number of travel companies going bust has jumped 36% the last 12 months, with 53 travel agencies and tour operators entering insolvency in the last year (to March 31), up from just 39 in the preceding 12 months.

Wilkins Kennedy explains that travel agencies’ and traditional tour operators’ business models are under increasing attack from a new wave of web-based competitors, from major international sites such as Airbnb, Skyscanner and Booking, to niche sites like Mr and Mrs Smith, the luxury hotel booking service.

At the same time, Wilkins Kennedy adds that the demise of travel agencies has accelerated since the recession as holidaymakers opt for DIY European holidays instead of long-haul packages.

Direct booking allows holidaymakers to benefit from lower-cost accommodation options such as self-catering apartments and holiday lets – through fast-growing sites such as Airbnb, Homestay and Wimdu - completely bypassing traditional travel companies.

Anthony Cork, Partner at Wilkins Kennedy, says: 'There used to be travel agents on every high street, but although the writing’s been on the wall for some time, now the internet is really taking over.'

Big gap between Western hotels and backpacker-style

'Online portals give people the option to plan and book each aspect of their holidays themselves, leaving the services of travel agents redundant. People book independently, especially for European holidays where they can use budget airlines and there is a wide range of affordable accommodation options.'

'Given the lingering recession, this is really important for many holidaymakers keeping a careful eye on their money. They are less inclined to travel to expensive far-flung destinations and are increasingly finding the internet offers them a cheap and easy option to tailor-make their own holidays.'

'At the moment, when travelling outside of Europe holidaymakers may feel more inclined to book a package holiday.

There are fewer budget airlines available and especially in countries like Thailand, there is a big gap between the kind of big Western hotels that the tour operators use, and backpacker-style accommodation.'

'However, as the tourist infrastructure in many exotic destinations becomes more sophisticated, it will be harder and harder for tour operators to convince consumers that their package holidays offer a good deal.'

Recent ONS data highlighted an increase in visits from the UK to Europe but a decline in holidays from the UK to long-haul destinations.*

Wilkins Kennedy adds that in particular, once popular long-haul holiday destinations to countries such as Egypt and Turkey have been heavily affected by prolonged periods of political unrest.

Most recently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has recommended against 'all but essential travel to Egypt.'

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