Special Report: Trade intermediaries take lion’s share of transactions

Online dominates but trade intermediaries take lion’s share of transactions. Ian Taylor reports on TNS research for Travel Weekly

Two-thirds of UK overseas holidaymakers booked online this year, TNS research suggests. However, only one-third did so direct with an airline or hotel, suggesting almost two-thirds booked with an intermediary.

One in five (21%) booked with an agent or adviser: in person (9%), by phone (5%) or part by phone and part online (7%). Another 14% booked with an online agent (OTA) and 18% with an accommodation site such as

Just over a third (36%) said they booked direct with a supplier – an airline or hotel. The proportion who booked online with a tour operator is unclear, but the number must be significant because Tui has reported 57% of its UK bookings were made online direct this year.

The TNS research found little age variation in the rate of direct booking with airlines or hotels, but a sharp variation in use of accommodation sites, with 31% of 25-34-year-olds booking with sites such as – double the rate among adults over 35. This younger group was also more likely to book with an OTA – one in five (19%) doing so – and least likely to book with an agent (10%) yet most likely to consult an agent, 17% in person and 18% by phone.

Older adults aged 55 and over appear most likely to book with an agent, one in five (19%) doing so in an agency or by phone and another 12% booking by a combination of phone and online.

Adults travelling without children also appear more likely to book with an agent, with 25% doing so against 15% of adults with children.

Three out of four holidaymakers (75%) in better-off occupations booked online, against 58% of those with less money, with 28% of the latter booking with an agent in person, by phone or by combination of phone and online.

Advice: Just one in six say trade is their main source

One in six UK adults booking an overseas holiday used the trade as the main source of information for their most recent trip.

A TNS survey for Travel Weekly found 17% cited visiting a travel agent, reading tour operators’ brochures or speaking to an adviser on the phone as the “main source of information” for their most-recent overseas holiday booking. That compared with 57% who said the internet was their main source of information.

But while the dominance of the web should be no surprise, the resilience of more-traditional sources of information could be.

About one in seven (15%) said friends or family were their main source of information. Another 6% relied on “old-fashioned” travel guides for their information and the same proportion (6%) on magazines and newspapers.

Reliance on the web was highest among 45-54-year-old respondents at 66% and lowest among 25-34-year-olds at 45%.

One in five (19%) of 25-34-year olds regarded travel agents or advisers as their main source of information and 27% cited an agent or printed travel brochures – the highest percentage of any age group. In no other age group did more than one in 10 cite agents as the main source of information about a holiday.

Brochures appeared of least appeal to 35-54-year-olds, but the same age group showed most interest in printed travel guides with one in 10 seeing these as their main source of travel information.

Young adults were most likely to look to friends and family for information – 21% citing this as their main source.

There was little regional variation in source preference other than among consumers in the north, who appeared twice as likely to consult a travel agent in person as those in the south – 10% compared with 5%.

Holiday buyers in higher income households were more likely to regard the internet as their main source of information than those in lower-income households, with 62% doing so compared with 49%.

Those less well-off were twice as likely to consult an agent – 15% saying they would do so against 8% of those on higher incomes.

Websites: TripAdvisor tops list for research

TripAdvisor is the most-popular site among UK outbound travellers, with 44% using the site in the course of booking or researching a holiday.

The reviews and booking site was well ahead of its nearest rival, accommodation site (31%). The Thomson site was third most-popular, on a par with easyJet on 25% and ahead of Expedia (24%).

These form the five most-popular travel sites. None other of a list of 12 leading sites was used by more than one in five respondents, although 29% used sites outside the 12. SkyScanner was used by 19%, British Airways 18% and Ryanair 16%. The list also included Airbnb, Cheapflights, Travelzoo and Google Flights.

TripAdvisor was most popular in the north, where 55% used it, and among those without children (50%). Just 29% of adults with children used TripAdvisor.

EasyJet rated higher than Ryanair in every age group and region, but was more popular in the north (31%) than elsewhere. BA topped easyJet in the south with 31%. appeared more popular with adults without children (36%) than with (21%), and Airbnb more popular with higher-income households.

Sites used to research or book most-recent overseas holiday

1 TripAdvisor 44%
2 31%
=3 EasyJet 25%
=3 Thomson 25%
5 Expedia 24%
6 Skyscanner 19%
7 British Airways 18%
8 Ryanair 16%
9 Airbnb 10%
10 Cheapflights 8%
11 Travelzoo 5%
12 Google Flights 4%
Other sites 29%

Most-popular travel sites by region






British Airways

Most-popular travel sitesfor customers with children

British Airways

No children


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