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TUI Shop Closures Mark Turning Point for UK Travel Agents

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, travel and tourism analyst, GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company offers her view on the TUI shop closures in the UK.  

According to Bonhill-Smith, this move from TUI UK is unsurprising after the European travel giant already declared initiatives to digitise operations in its half year results earlier this year. With 45 percent of global tourists opting to buy more products online in a post-pandemic world, it is likely that more UK travel agents will evaluate their brick and mortar strategies and make this move to trim costs at a time when demand has not yet returned. 

“Agencies and operators with a more asset-light business model are still at a clear advantage to withstand the uncertainty that continues to surround travel recovery because they do not have high fixed costs such as rent, bills and other utilities to pay for. TUI’s decision to unload is a sign that it is looking to move in this direction, said Bonhill-Smith.

He continued by saying, “Furthermore, in 2019, the consumers that would most typically book at an in-store travel agency were aged 65 and over (20 percent). As these fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category for COVID-19, they are likely to be nervous about travelling while the virus is still at large. In fact, 43 percent of this age group say they are planning to reduce international travel in the short-term.”

“In light of the colossal slump in demand brought on by COVID-19, this is rather a big issue for operators with a high reliance on in-store revenue and may further delay many operators’ recovery. It would be wise for these operators to re-focus on developing their online platforms to better cater to a wider range of tourists amid sweeping changes in consumer preferences,” Bonhill-Smith concluded.