The headline emblazoned across a specialist newspaper for City workers declared that UK travel firms had been “red flagged”, with the travel industry “braced for thousands of insolvencies”.
It was taken from a warning by an insolvency practitioner, which had apparently placed 2,679 red flags over businesses within the sector, suggesting they were experiencing substantial levels of distress. Coupled with the collapse of the 15-year-old All Leisure Holidays Group (ALG) last Wednesday, you’d have been forgiven for thinking doomsday was about to befall the sector.
Last weekend, however, told a different story. The sales boom, which kicked off for many in December continued over last weekend, with agents and operators reporting record bookings on so-called “Sunshine Saturday”. And staff at one agency I visited as part of my TTG Top 50 Travel Agencies tour of the north-west laughed out loud when they saw the insolvency story, shaking their heads in disbelief as they told me the past few weeks had been some of their busiest ever.
This week, industry stalwart Miles Morgan told us about the successes of his agency chain, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in December with the opening of its 15th store and a generous gift for staff. Travel businesses, it seems, aren’t just surviving; they’re thriving.
The demise of ALG is incredibly sad, and tragic for the 150 employees that lost their jobs. But neither its failure, nor just one report from a financial company, defines the health of an industry.
Far from being disheartened by the ALG news, analysts should be encouraged that two of ALG’s operators were snapped up prior to its collapse, proving there is still appetite for acquisitions in the sector.
The state of the industry is characterised not by its few failures, but by its multiple successes. And that’s a story worth flagging.