Home Travel Industry News

Internet vs Bricks-and-mortar Travel Agents, who will win?

Claims that the Internet is killing bricks-and-mortar travel agency business could be exaggerated – or so it seems with the results from Roy Morgan Research’s latest findings.

Claims that the Internet is killing bricks-and-mortar travel agency business could be exaggerated – or so it seems with the results from Roy Morgan Research’s latest findings.

When it comes to booking overseas holidays, apparently more Australians still choose traditional agents over their online (and other) rivals.

In the past 12 months some 4,715,000 Australians travelled overseas for a holiday, and when Roy Morgan examined their booking behviour found half (47%) booked through a conventional travel agent, while 16% used an online-only agency.

Of course, there’s no denying online bookings has increased in popularity since the development of OTA’s, coupled with better online functionality across most travel businesses over the years. This is clearly proven by Roy Morgan’s 2007 results which found back then (in a pre-sophisticated online world) that a greater majority of those booking overseas holidays – 71% to be exact – chose to do so the bricks-and-mortar way and only 6% booked it via online transactions.

However, “they do suggest that, even amid the proliferation of booking websites, there is a place for bricks-and-mortar travel agents who offer expert, cost-effective and comprehensive overseas options,” Roy Morgan stated.

“Of course, there are more channels for booking an overseas holiday than just bricks-and-mortar travel agencies and booking websites, such as going directly through an airline or booking their accommodation directly and both of these methods have made considerable gains in popularity since 2007”.

However, when it comes to domestic holidays, traditional travel agencies are taking a back-seat to the online world. Over the past 12 months, 8% of those whose last holiday was within Australia used a bricks-and-mortar travel agent to book their trip, while 10% used an online only booking agency such as Wotif.com, 18% booked via an airline and 34% booked their accommodation directly.

Australian travellers are even going so far as to not even bother booking in advance, with 27% simply “turning up at their chosen destination”.

“Australians’ changing holiday-booking behaviours are a natural result of our society’s increasing use of, and reliance on, digital technology. With the continued penetration of laptops, tablets and smartphones, this trend towards using the Internet to book and research travel is unlikely to abate any time soon,”

Angela Smith, Group Account Director — Consumer Products, Roy Morgan Research, said.

“Airlines have clearly recognised and adapted to this, making it quick and easy for travellers to book not only flights but hotels, car hire and even holiday packages via their websites. Dedicated booking websites are also gaining momentum by catering to the connected traveller, with Expedia’s recent takeover of Wotif sure to raise their profile even further.

“Amidst all these changes, bricks-and-mortar travel agents remain a favoured option for booking overseas holidays, offering a level of personal service and in-depth knowledge that online sources can’t beat. And this potentially holds the key to staying competitive in the rapidly evolving travel and tourism market.

“What’s more, with the help of Roy Morgan’s comprehensive traveller profiles, travel agents can pinpoint exactly what kind of overseas travellers would be most receptive to booking their holidays in person.”

What measures do you think bricks-and-mortar travel agencies should be putting in place now to maintain market share of travel booking?