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The surprising resurgence of the travel agent in 2023
If you think using a
travel agent to book your annual holiday is so 1990s, then you might be surprised to learn they’re making a comeback.
The post-Covid, post-Brexit landscape is seeing many holidaymakers returning to professionals to create a seamless trip. So, where does this leave digital marketers in the travel industry?
A new era of travel agents
While the traditional bricks-and-mortar travel agent of the high street has become a rare find, its digital equivalent is booming. The worldwide online travel agent market is set to grow from $761.9 billion (£630 billion) in 2022 to $865.5 billion (£704.3 billion) in 2023.
The internet was once seen as the death knell for travel agents, with users able to book flights, accommodation and day trips themselves. But, as any digital marketer knows, the way people use the internet is constantly evolving and there have been some pretty seismic real world events in recent years that have shifted holiday planning trends.
More complicated travel landscape
After the internet ushered in an era of easy booking for low-cost flights and last-minute getaways, the Covid pandemic put an abrupt end to click-and-go travel. Suddenly, there were travel restrictions and vaccine passports to consider, which saw a shift back towards professional travel planners.
While restrictions have eased in the wake of the pandemic, airline strikes, understaffing and tourist taxes mean travel still has its complications. As holidaymakers look to travel agents to minimise the stress by dealing with the arrangements, they also benefit from expert knowledge and industry partnerships.
This can mean anything from getting an unexpected upgrade or being booked into a hotel room with a superior view. These are the key components that are missing when a user plans their trip via a search engine.
How digital marketers must adapt
Digital marketers have long been aware of the importance of adapting to the changing ways their target audience use the internet. Now, those in the travel industry must think of strategies that embrace those customers who want to book through agencies while not alienating users keen to make arrangements themselves.
One travel company that’s been quick to embrace the trend towards agents is Jet2Holidays. In 2022, it launched a two-pronged strategy that leaned into the desire to book through a professional. It began with a travel agent finder section on its website, which users were directed to via billboards.
This was followed up with its Holiday Saving Experts campaign, where it positioned independent travel agents as the best place to go for a good value holiday. It’s a bold move and departure from the previous travel marketing trend of assuring customers they’ll get the best deals by booking direct.