The decline in the proportion of sales through high-street agencies appears to have halted, according to new industry-wide statistics.

High-street agencies have maintained a 58% share of passenger volumes until the end of June for the second summer running, against a 42% share of call centre and online sales.

This is against a backdrop of tough trading: passenger numbers declined 14% in June compared with the same month last year. Passenger numbers fell 5% in May.

But cumulatively, the figure for summer is down just 0.5% compared with last year.

The figures, collated by Ascent MI’s Leisure Travel Monitor, back up reports of a revival in fortunes for high-street agents as holidaymakers return to traditional agencies and online bookings level out.

Ascent MI chief executive Sarah Smalley said: “Since direct sales [online and call centre] really took off with gusto, every year it’s been growing at the expense of the high street. This is the first year the high street has held its own.”

Internet sales are widely believed to have taken off around five years ago.

Bad experiences of booking online and improved customer service on the high street could be the reason why sales appear to be reaching an equilibrium, Smalley added.

“If people had negative experiences booking online, there is a possibility they have gone back to the high street. Agents have become more customer centric following investment and training,” she said.

The Co-operative Travel director of retail distribution Trevor Davis supported the findings.

He said: “There has definitely been a return to traditional high-street retailers. What we have seen in the last 12 to 18 months is the retail sector maturing in recognition of the fact there are so many other ways to book. We have all got smarter in the way we serve customers.”

The news follows a year of consolidation in major retail estates, a factor which will have exaggerated any declines in high-street sales.

Davis added: “We have had to fine-tune our retail estate: non-productive agencies have closed and we have invested in other units. This year we will refurbish about 50 branches.”

LTM’s figures, collated from trading figures of TUI Travel, Thomas Cook and 55% of ABTA agencies, show direct sales in June fell just 1% in passenger numbers, while revenue rose by 6%.

Statistics: Summer to end June 2008 compared to last year

Short haul

  • Shorthaul passengers down 4%, medium haul up 2%, longhaul up 3%
  • Shorthaul’s share of passenger volumes is down 2% to 35% year-on-year
  • In June alone, shorthaul’s share of the market is down 4% on the same month last year

Booking types

  • More than 250,000 extra passengers have chosen all-inclusive holidays
  • Accommodation-only bookings up 34%
  • Almost 200,000 fewer passengers booked self-catering holidays
  • Revenue from the non-family market increased £165 million


  • Almost 200,000 extra passengers have booked Turkey holidays 
  • Almost 100,000 extra passengers have booked Egypt holidays
  • An extra 35,000 passengers have booked US holidays
  • Passenger numbers to Spain have decreased by 90,000
  • Passenger numbers to Greece have decreased by 100,000
  • Passengers numbers to Portugal are down 40,000
  • Passengers numbers to Tunisia are down 20,000
  • Passengers numbers to Kenya are down 14,000

Source: Ascent MI’s Leisure Travel Monitor