If you’re someone who travels regularly, whether it’s for work, a weekend getaway here and there, or even a yearly family vacation, it’s likely you may have used a travel agent at some point.
But for a lot of people, travel agents might seem like a thing of the past. Online travel booking platforms like Expedia and Airbnb
have exploded in popularityin recent years. Instead of contacting their local brick-and-mortar travel agency to book their trips, many travelers now use these online services to do it themselves.
Does this mean traditional travel agents are doomed to fail in the coming years?
The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the travel industry can offer us some clues.
- 93% of travel agencies reported business income down at least 75%compared to 2019.
- 78percent reported that income was down 90% or more.
These drops in revenue were all pandemic-related.
- Of respondents with W-2 employees at the start of the crisis, 75% had laid off or furloughed at least one employee, but most had laid off more.
- More than 43% said that they had laid off or furloughed three-quarters or more of their staff.
- More than 16% said that they had laid off or furloughed between 50 and 75% of staff.
- Nearly 9%had laid off or furloughed 25-50%of staff.
- Only 7%had laid off or furloughed less than 25%of their employees.
- Australian travel agency Flight Centre closed 421 out of its 740 stores.
- German tour operator TUI closed 166 stores throughout the UK and Ireland in 2020, and a further 48 in 2021.
- British travel company Hays Travel closed89 of its stores following the UK’s third national lockdown in early 2021.
- STA Travel, a UK-based company that specialized in trips for young people, including gap years and volunteer projects, was forced to close in mid-2020. STA had more than 50 shops throughout the UK.
- Upside Business Travelwas the first major business-focused travel agent to go out of business when it ceased operations in 2021.
- Business travel management firm Lolawas also forced to close in 2021.
However, as 2021 progressed more people became vaccinated, and travel bans were lifted. Increasingly, travelers started turning to
travel agentsto help them navigate constantly changing COVID rules and travel restrictions. In the cases where restrictions caused cancellations, travel agents could help them get refunds for airline tickets, cruise ships, hotels, and package holidays.
Many travel agents suddenly started seeing a huge surge in business, even compared to pre-pandemic levels:
- According to a pollby ASTA in March last year, 76% of travel agents saw an increase in customers in 2021 compared to before the pandemic, with 81% saying they were hearing from customers who had never used a travel agent before.
- This poll also found that more than one-quarter of travelers (27%) always or often used a travel agent prior to the pandemic. But nearly half of travelers (44%) said they were more likely to use a travel agent after the pandemic is over.
This resurgence would suggest that far from going out of business in the near future, travel agents might actually become more widely used for future travel.
But it’s not quite as simple as that.
If travel agents are to survive in the long term, they will have to evolve in more ways than one.
In many cases, this evolution is already happening.
suggestedthat travel agents are now increasingly playing the role of a counselor, or crisis manager. Some companies have even started offering 24-hour text messaging support to help serve this demand.
In the world of business travel — as a platform where companies can book and manage all aspects of their travel — TravelPerk has been working to address this growing need for counseling and crisis management. We offer tools such as automated travel alerts, have partnered up with duty of care companies, and have a 24/7 customer care support service with real humans, no bots, and a target 15 second response time.
We do all of this to ensure that our customers are always safe, comfortable, and in the know.
So it seems in one form or another, travel agents will survive! It’s likely they will continue to evolve and serve an ever-changing world of travel.
This is something we at TravelPerk are always striving to do in the world of business travel.
That’s why we’ve created a
modern consumer-grade platformthat manages all aspects of business travel. Our platform offers much more than a traditional
business travel agency, with everything you need from booking and reporting to expensing. Some features include:
- Instant platform set up.
- $0 set up fee and no hidden costs.
- Target 15-second response time for customer support.
- 80% of costs back on canceled trips.
- Easily claim 25% of your travel VAT.
We also have unrivaled choice with the world’s largest travel inventory, and we’ve made corporate travel more flexible than ever before with FlexiPerk. This allows you to book any flight, hotel, car, or train at any rate, and cancel at any time, no questions asked. All business trips can be refunded by 80% with just a click.
If you’d like to learn more about how TravelPerk is evolving the world of business travel, feel free to
request a demofor more information.