The future for high street travel agents

By | Category: Travel rumblings

The decision by TUI to close 166 high street travel agencies isn’t unexpected and continues a trend that has been seen for a decade or more.

a demonstartion of the new holiday suggestor seat that TUI came up with before closing shops. More innovation is needed to help travel agencies survive

Its slogan – Discover your smile – probably didn’t ring true for those who will lose their jobs. Whilst many media portrayed it as result of COVID-19 and the quarantine regulations, that is merely a spur to an ever-increasing change in our buying habits.

In another generation, I can only see the need for a few agents who will probably act like personal advisors akin to the financial advisers we have about pensions and investment advice. The need for a shop where people sit and look at brochures whilst a travel agent tells about their experiences of the places they have visited will all be done online with pop up chats, real-time images of where they plan to visit and virtual tours that will probably show more than they will see when the actually arrive.

TUI will still have 350 stores and Hays who took over most of the Thomas stores will still have a large high street presence but for how long?

without innovation there will be more shuttered agencies like this one

The independents will still be there but they must transform themselves just as many retailers must.

By transformation I mean that people must have a reason other than booking or enquiring about a holiday

Would a café format work with every week there being a different menu from a different country or a region? A link with a local café or restaurant, hotel or food supplier might be the answer to problems both face.

Why couldn’t there be a section of travel books and maps that could be sold to customers. Just as companies like Virgin Holidays and Kuoni have implants in department stores like Debenhams, why can’t Waterstone’s or Stanford’s have an implant in a local travel agency?

How about a daily and evening language class that teaches the basics that holidaymakers should have one holidaying abroad. It could be built with a local educational college or even school and have on emphasis on real-life topics such as how much does it cost to reserve a sun lounger and not ou est la plume de ma tante and other unhelpful things that I learnt in school French.

On a personal note, good luck to those that try and learn the language of Tunisia with its cross-patter segway from Arabic into French, Italian and English!

Just as museums have had to adapt to attract people and galleries try and find bumper exhibition ideas so travel agencies must do the same.

There will probably always be a core public for travel agency services but  can the remaining travel agencies just rely on that shrinking number?

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