The independent sector has become more “robust and viable” than it was five years ago, according to Andrew Botterill, Stella Travel Services UK chief executive.
Speaking at the Global Travel Group conference in Leicester today, he said the numbers of independents had shrunk, but those remaining were stronger.
“Independents were very exposed to the vertically integrated operators and now they’ve migrated away from that reliance.
“People have taken control of their own destiny – they have a niche, a USP and more contact with the customer.”
Botterill said he expected to see more consolidation in the industry during another difficult year.
“It is inevitable that there will be further consolidation. The difficulty is people’s hopes for valuation. Owner/managers have an idea of what their business is worth, but in my experience that’s not quite right.
“When push comes to shove, if there’s a willingness on both sides, then deals will be done.”
He said it was likely 2011 would be as tough as 2010 due to public sector cuts, natural disasters and geo-polital issues.
January started off well for the group, but he admitted February had been a “disaster”.