Agents have been told to be more like Tesco if they are to keep up with the public’s growing demand for tailor-made holidays.

Speaking during an industry question time at ABTA’s headquarters last Tuesday, Cendant Travel Distribution Services chief operating officer Chris Vukelich held up the supermarket giant as an example to follow.

Vukelich said the increasing number of specialist operators, and the rise of dynamic packaging, have made finding a holiday easier for both consumers and retailers. The challenge for the trade is to make sure it helps customers to find what they want.

He said: “The retailer who knows how to really retail, instead of waiting for someone to walk into their office, can influence choice by knowing what customers want. You research like crazy so you know what the next cool thing is. Consumers don’t want unlimited choice.

“Tesco’s reward programme is not there to reward us, it’s there to reward Tesco. They know what we want, they are incredibly good at getting us to throw additional items in our baskets.”

The panel agreed people are travelling more often and are taking more specialist long-haul holidays with an adventurous or educational theme. However, there was disagreement about the significance of this, or if it can last with high fuel prices and concern about the environmental impact of travelling.

Sunvil Holidays managing director Noel Josephides said the tourism industry is still reliant on the big-volume package tour operators and hit out at “ludicrously low lead-in prices” which ignore fuel surcharges. He said he could see capacity being dumped next year.

He added: “The golden age of cheap travel is about to come to an end.”