The number of Abta-registered homeworkers is tipped to eclipse bricks-and-mortar UK travel agencies in the next few years.

Abta’s John de Vial made the prediction at the Aito Overseas Conference, held last weekend in Ras Al Khaimah, where Dutch and Australian trade representatives also reported growth in homeworkers and independent consultants in their home markets.

De Vial, Abta’s director of financial protection and financial services, said the number of UK high street agencies was now stable in a “mature” market following large-scale consolidation in 2007.

“There are members opening branches and optimising locations and lease opportunities, but that’s nothing new,” added De Vial.

There are more than 3,500 Abta-registered travel agency outlets in the UK and a similar number of Abta-registered homeworkers.

He said: “I can see the number of homeworkers overtaking the number of physical travel agencies in the next few years. The value of their turnover is a different story, but it does show the diversification, with call centres, online and homeworkers, as well as high street locations.”

Other types of agencies seeing growth are franchise companies, both as divisions of UK retailers and new organisations such as US‑based Travel Leaders, he said.About 17% of Abta high street branches are now franchisees.

De Vial added: “We are not far off the point of stable maturity on the high street.

“We are seeing some high street revivals, but it’s certainly not all about the high street.”

Homeworking firm Travel Counsellors backed this view. It reported a 40% rise this year in new agents compared with 2016.