It’s crunch time for independent agents, who are facing some of the biggest changes to their businesses as 2007 comes to an end.


The saga concerning Worldchoice, Global and the Travel Trust Association is set to continue for weeks, leaving about one-sixth of the UK’s high-street travel agencies unclear about their future.


One agent wrote to Travel Weekly this week that he was “bemused” and “confused” by the consolidation.


This consolidation is set to change the face of the independent agency sector and many Worldchoice agents must be wondering whether they will be part of Stella Group or the TTA next year.


Last week independent agents also came under fire from TUI Travel UK managing director Dermot Blastland. He claimed independent agents need to change their business model and be more innovative.


Speaking exclusively to travelweekly.co.uk, Blastland said agencies need to offer more value to their customers through selling additional services such as transfers, valet parking and currency exchange.


And Blastland’s view is one agents must take on board. Despite commission rates from Thomson being lower than many independent agents would like, they can’t afford not to work with the big two tour operating groups.


The Co-operative Travel, the 400-strong chain, this week admitted that not working with Thomson Holidays two years ago hit the group’s sales.


On top of this, agencies are facing a new legislative burden. If an agent fails to communicate the needs of disabled customers to an airline from July 2008 they could face a fine of up to £5,000 or criminal prosecution. It’s a tough time for independent agents.


On a more positive note, the top selling period for agents is only months away.