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Association of British Travel Agents

ABTA Market Report

Although the industry is changing, there is still affection for both the high street travel agent…

Although the industry is changing, there is still affection for both the high street travel agent , with consumers saying that agents have become more trustworthy – and the package holiday, which still provides high levels of satisfaction and excellent value for money, the ABTA 2004 Holiday Survey conducted by MORI shows.

Major industry players are also reporting that bookings for summer 05 are positive and are forecasting that bookings by Christmas will be 5% up on last year. Cruising is also performing particularly well for next year with growth at an impressive 35%.

The MORI survey also showed that 64 % of package holidays were booked through a travel agent and 28% direct with a tour operator.

This year, tour operators have experienced a surge in demand for long haul destinations and separate holiday components such as accommodation only and flight ticket sales. Unfortunately, there has been a dip in sales for short-haul Western European holidays, but the major tour operators are reporting that Spanish destinations are currently undergoing a slight resurgence.

How destinations have performed during Summer 04:

The non-Eurozone countries such as

Bulgaria +62%
Croatia +78%
Turkey +10%
Slovenia +11%

North Africa +56%
Egypt +163%
Morrocco +38%
Tunisia +24%

Long-haul

The United States +13%
Cuba +18%
Malaysia +32%
Maldives +8%
UAE +108%
Thailand +8%
Sri Lanka +5%

EU Europe has not fared so well this summer:

Spain -18%
France -10%
Italy +0%
Greece -19%
Portugal -16%

These figures are from AC Neilsen TravelTrack report, November 2004 and shows the summer 04 season to date as from the end of October 2004. The figures are taken from bookings to high street agents, call centres and websites. However, they dont include bookings direct with tour operators, and this undoubtedly under-presents the market.

Cruising

This year`s Passenger Shipping Association report announced that UK passengers on cruises past the one million mark in 2003 and that cruising is experiencing strong growth into 2005.

There has been a slight dip in average prices, which may have encouraged some of this growth and within this, fly-cruise is growing at 10%, and revenue growth ahead at 18%.

The most impressive growth can be seen coming through non-air cruises which is being driven by the agent direct sales channel and includes ex-UK cruises and mini-cruises. This is currently up 92%, adding more than 19,000 passengers for summer 2005 to date (end of October). This may have been stimulated by a substantial drop in average cost per passenger of £292. Short durations may have helped drive this price drop, as seven nights and under are growing at 163%.

Accommodation only sales have gone up this summer by 53%, with flight tickets only up by 5% with 30% growth in scheduled airline tickets.

Travel Agents in 2004:

The ABTA Holiday Survey conducted by MORI found that a third more consumers than in 2002 stated that travel agents advice was more trustworthy than two years ago while 95% of those who used a travel agent said that they received a very good or fairly good service. This proves that a quality face-to-face service is still invaluable and that many consumers find that travel agents offer both speed and convenience. Also 75% said that they used travel agents for a source of information (compared to 57% who used the web for information). Similarly 93% of those who said that they had booked their last holiday through an agent said that they would use the same agent again. And 73% said that if that agent withdrew from ABTA that they would be unlikely or certain not to use that agent again.

ABTA travel agents have found new income streams in the form of long-haul tailor-made holidays and booking many more cruise holidays. Many agents are also now practising dynamic packaging under their own ATOLs.

Tour Operators in 2004:

Tour operators benefited from the increased demand in long-haul and non-eurozone destinations and as a result package holiday revenues were up 1%.

Many tour operators have direct booking websites and are also now introducing more flexible holiday times with dynamic packaging software, while others have introduced bed banks and accommodation only (including villas) facilities. Other major players have also reduced their commitment with hotel beds and flight seats to retain as much flexibility as possible. The difference of booking separate holiday elements through a tour operator rather than independently means that they usually offer full financial protection.

The industry experienced a very good late summer with late bookings after the Lisbon leap and interest in Greece during and after the Olympics.

But lines between tour operators and agents are blurring as both agents and operators are moving into the same fields of distribution of internet, call centres and interactive TV. They are also selling separately more holiday components AC Nielsen reports that accommodation only sales are up by 53%.

The MORI survey found that 95% of consumers thought that their holiday was good value for money and 88% said that they were either certain to, very likely or fairly likely to take another package holiday in the next 12 months.

Co-Founder & Managing Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Articles

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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