In reviewing the coverage of the September 23 collapse of Thomas Cook—the 178-year-old company was the UK’s oldest operator/agency—INBOUND has had no shortage of causes that have been presented as the reason(s) for the demise of the organization. But it seems that the high street travel agency model of doing business that is still very much a part of the distribution system in the UK is taking quite a hit—or at least, it suggests that the inability of Thomas Cook to adapt to the digital marketplace was a key contributor to the venerable British Brand. Thomas Cook, in fact, had more than 550 shops at the time of its closure.
Neatly summing up the situation in an article published by City Lab (It is part of the Atlantic Monthly Group) was Feargus O’Sullivan, who wrote: “Companies such as Thomas Cook struggle in this market because, since the popularization of the Internet, they are no longer so badly needed. In our analog past, travel agents were vital mediators for less experienced (or simply time-poor) travelers. They smoothed people’s paths to countries that might otherwise have seemed intimidatingly exotic and inscrutable. Now that you can book decent, affordable flights and accommodation in a European city in the time it takes to read this article, such streamlining and reassurance is less sought after.”
Then, last week, Kayak released the findings of a survey it had conducted earlier this year in a statement that was headlined, “Report says almost half of Brits haven’t visited a travel agent in the last decade.”
Specific findings from the Kayak report, which is the result of a survey of 1,007 adults in the UK, include the following:
—Forty-seven percent said they had not stepped foot into an agency in the last decade.
—Two out of five (40 percent) have switched to booking their holidays online, something they didn’t do 10 years ago.
—One in five said they now book elements of their holidays separately, something they didn’t do in the previous decade.
The Kayak findings seemed to be supported by ABTA’s recently released Holiday Habits report for the past year. Here are two items from that report.
—The preferred method for booking a holiday abroad is through a holiday booking website (44 percent), a 3-percentage point increase over 2018.
—The next most popular methods are directly through a service provider (42 percent), which has seen a decline since last year (47 percent).