Travel agents´ share of the market has increased to 70% of all bookings being taken for summer 2009, according to new statistics from Ascent MI´s Leisure Travel Monitor.

Agents typically fare well in the early booking market but the figures are 4% up on last year at this time when agents had only a 66% share of bookings for summer 2008. For this summer to date, agents have held a 58% of the market.

Meanwhile, agents have enjoyed a £6 million increase in revenues from midhaul bookings for summer 2009 driven by the popularity for all-inclusive holidays, added Smalley.

The figures, released during the Travel Convention, suggest more consumers are booking through travel agents because of worries over financial protection caused by the recent failure of XL Leisure Group.

Ascent MI chief executive Sarah Smalley said the onus was on agents to understand their customers better and how they are reacting to the current slowdown to ensure they continue to hold on to their share of the market. “They need to understand how customers behave at different times of year and look at how to harness the renewed customer footfall coming through their doors,” she said.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer added: “This is encouraging news for travel agents. There is a general nervousness in the market and times are tough.”

The Leisure Travel Monitor´s figures also show a 19% hike in passengers taking all inclusive holidays this summer, backing up the trend that consumers are looking at ways to budget their holidays, and a shift away from 14 night holidays to shorter breaks. “People are still going away but they are just going for less time and making sure they budget when they go away,” added Smalley.

Midhaul destinations such as Egypt and Turkey enjoyed almost an extra half a million passengers this summer, while the US, Mexico and cruise holidays have also increased in popularity.

For winter 2008 there has been an increase in passenger numbers booking of 1% compared with last year, but a hike in revenue of 4%. The growth is driven by bookings for midhaul destinations such as Egypt and the Caribbean.

More news from the ABTA Travel Convention 2008.