Agents urged to offer better deals to more destinations to counter Brexit fears

Travel agents must try to offer better deals to more destinations to counter customer concerns over the impact of Brexit on their holiday plans during the peaks.

The suggestion comes from accountancy firm KPMG following a poll of 4,000 UK consumers which found that 58% believe travel between EU and UK will be difficult and 55% expect flight delays and cancellations in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The firm warned that Easter travel plans could be hit the hardest amid worries over potential travel disruption in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU on March 29

KPMG global head of leisure and hospitality Will Hawkley said: “For travel agents to make the most of this period they must ensure that their contingency plans are particularly focussed on customer experience excellence – many customers will now be valuing reassurance and security as much as fun and excitement in their booking criteria.

“In practice this means agents offering better deals to more locations, giving practical advice on bookings and ensuring they are available when holidaymakers have questions.

“Helping customers through any disruption with as little upset and emotion as possible will go a long way to ensuring repeat bookings and recommendations.”

He added: “The main issue keeping tour operators awake at night will be the immediate impact of Brexit on holiday bookings.

“After all, people book holidays as much with their heart as they do their head.

“With increased uncertainty on whether a Brexit deal will be reached, operators will be deep in contingency planning mode.

“The most immediate worry is the effect on bookings for Easter, one of the busiest times of year for travel abroad.

“With many commentators anticipating disruption reaching its peak in the month following 29 March, this is likely to hit Easter travel plans hard.

“One hopes that the benefit of an Abta guarantee will provide some safety net and keep footfall at agents healthy.

“One of the options available to tour operators is to focus their deals and offers on holidays outside of the EU in order to protect their margins and to help customers to still book the spring sunshine trip they have become accustomed to.”

Hawkley also said: “There has been much talk recently regarding the imposition of visa charges for travel to the EU should no deal be reached.

“However, with these charges likely to amount to less than £10 for a three year travel visa, much less than holidaymakers currently pay for a US ESTA, this is likely to have minimal impact on customers decision making.”

His comments came as research by audit, tax and consulting firm RSM found that consumers plan to rein in spending this year on most items with the exception of holidays and weekends away.

The study of 2,000 people found that they were most likely to cut spending on takeaways (27.6%), followed by technology (26.8%) and meals out (26.7%). Just over a quarter (25.8%) said they would cut down on buying clothes.

When it came to where consumers thought they would put their money next year, the top three were saving (20.7%), holidays (17.2%) and weekends away (12.5%).

Forty-five per cent said that living costs would likely have a high impact on their disposable income over the coming year.

Almost a third (31%) said that Brexit was likely to have a high impact while the same proportion cited concerns around price inflation.

Andrew Westbrook, partner and head of retail at RSM, said: ‘With the current political uncertainty, it’s no surprise that consumers say they plan to cut back on a range of consumer goods and activities. However, as anyone who has ever made a new year’s resolution will know, there is often a difference between what people say they plan to do, and what they actually do.

“The travel sector may well be encouraged by these findings that a relatively high proportion of consumers intend to spend more on holidays and weekends away.

Even in straightened economic times, holidays appear to be a high priority for UK consumers.

“However, these figures also suggest there could be tough times ahead for the restaurant and takeaway sector with over a quarter of consumers indicating that they would tighten the purse strings when it came to eating out.”

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