The collapse of Thomas Cook will lead to a rise in homeworking travel agents, according to an expert panel.
Around 4,000 travel agents lost their jobs when Thomas Cook went into liquidation in the early hours of September 23, and travel firms have rallied to keep them in the industry.
Speaking at Abta’s New Markets In Cruise Conference today (October 2), Miles Morgan, owner and managing director of Miles Morgan Travel, said: “Following the desperately sad news last week, I can only see that part (homeworking) of the industry increasing.”
But training new homeworkers was “a challenge” because they were not used to working in a team environment, he added.
Morgan last week recruited one former Thomas Cook staff member to join the two homeworkers at his agency, which has 16 shops, but revealed he was talking to others about working remotely.
Asked why he specifically saw the homeworking community expanding, he said: “It’s maths at the end of the day. There will be a lot of [unemployed] agents but there will not be enough opportunities to join the high street for everybody.”
However, he issued a word of caution to former Thomas Cook agents who were thinking about becoming a homeworker.
“It is a different life,” he said. “Being a homeworker is not getting up, playing a round of golf and doing a booking. It is much harder than that. But what a lot of people appreciate is they are getting back control of their lives.”
Iain Powell, Saga’s head of trade sales, said the homeworking sector was already “the biggest area of growth” within the travel agent community.
Alistair Pritchard, head of travel at Deloitte, said events such as Thomas Cook’s failure would require the entire travel community to reassure customers.
“If anything, the events of the last 10 days will drive people back to wanting that expert [a travel agent] and protection,” said Pritchard. “There are a number of things that require the industry to give reassurance to consumers.”
Morgan echoed Pritchard’s words, adding that customers were looking for “certainty in their spending”.
“That is why the package holiday market has been particularly popular this year,” he said.
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