PACKAGE holiday bookings through travel agents are
forecast to drop by 4% next year, following a drop of 6% this
summer.

Traditional packages sold through the multiples have dropped to
their lowest since 1993 at 52% while web bookings look set to rise
to 13% of all bookings next year.

According to the 27th annual travel report by tourism professor
Allan Beaver, overall leisure trips will continue to increase, so
agents can continue to retain business if they tailor their
offering to a changing market.

“A classic agency just handling package holidays will see its
market falling and falling,” warned Beaver.

He added: “Inclusive tour numbers will fall, but overall
leisure trips abroad will continue to rise
significantly.”

Agents can tackle falling market share through dynamic packaging,
enabling them to offer consumers holidays where, when and for how
long they want them.

Independents should also ensure they offer a web distribution
channel, he said.

Overall, consumers still value booking through an agent but
retailers need to establish themselves as experts, he said.

Meanwhile, beach hotel package holidays overtook the proportion of
self-catering products by a ratio of 52:48 this summer. Charter
flight load factors were also their lowest since 1978 at
92.2%.

The number of travel agents in 2004 dropped by around 4.7% to
8,173