Consumers are increasingly turning to travel agents as they become exhausted by “information overload”.
That was the message from Deloitte’s lead partner travel, Alistair Pritchard, at the annual Barclays Travel Forum on Wednesday (22 May).
Opening the conference, Pritchard gave an update on the global economy and travel industry landscape.
He pointed out that despite significantly weakened global expansion forecasts, improvements in the US, European and Chinese economies in the first quarter of 2019 and the Brexit delay suggested a better shape for the global economy.
Pritchard also noted that while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) might have cut the UK growth forecast to 1.2% this year, the economy had started off on a positive note.
Despite this, he said there were obvious operational challenges facing travel in 2019. These include overcapacity, increasing costs and issues facing the aviation sector, including drone disruption, as well as the ongoing problems regarding the Boeing 737 Max.
On the latter, Pritchard said: “There’s a role here for the whole travel industry to play to reinstate consumer confidence in travelling. There are 5,000 aircraft on order. If consumer confidence isn’t there, there are no replacements.
“Airlines would have to use older aircraft which are more expensive and can’t meet the same environmental efficiencies that the Boeing 737 Max can.”
Elsewhere, Pritchard highlighted spending on holidays continues to be the top priority for discretionary spending, with consumers preferring to cut down on drinking and eating out instead.
“I am optimistic,” Pritchard insisted. “I think we will see a strong booking pattern over the next few months as people want to go on their holidays – what I can’t say is if these will be domestic or overseas.”
Meanwhile, examining different travel sectors, Pritchard noted the growing trend for solo travel, with a 17% increase in the last five years.
The sector is especially popular among women, with 85.7% of solo travellers female. Pritchard said the growth of the sector had forced the industry to rethink their offering “and tailor it to the unique requirements of a lone traveller”.
He concluded his presentation noting “the return of the travel expert”. “They help navigate efficiently through the digital overload,” he said. “We’re all used to using our phones, but we also feel we’re overloaded with information.
“Successful travel businesses, whether they’re homeworkers, high street retail or call centres, all have one thing in common – they spend time with the consumer working out what they want from their holiday."