This year’s ABTA Holiday Habits report has found that the overwhelming majority of people who speak to a travel professional first – over 9 in 10 – will then go on to book with that company.

As announced at the ABTA Travel Convention in Seville, the eighth annual survey, for the first time this year asked about booking behaviour after a customer had spoken to an agent. This looked into the possibility that a consumer may book via a different channel to the one they initially used to speak to the travel agent.

Of the 2000 people surveyed, 30% had spoken to a travel professional about their last holiday and more than nine in ten (93%) of these said they then went on to book with that company. Two in five (40%) spoke to a travel professional and booked in-store; 30% booked online and one in four (23%) booked over the phone.

This reflects feedback from ABTA members about the changing role of the high street store and how they are an important part of the customer journey and experience, as well as an important asset for raising brand awareness.

It also busts the myth that lots of people speak to a travel professional but then go on to book their travel independently or with someone else. Only 7% of people who spoke to a travel professional went on to book with another travel company or organised the holiday themselves.

The findings show that if these businesses can engage the customer in a conversation, they have more than a 9 in 10 chance of converting the conversion into a sale. It also reinforces the importance of thinking about the customer journey through all the channels a customer may be using, from the initial engagement through to the final booking.

“Young people… are recognising the limitations of doing everything themselves online”

Victoria Bacon, director of brand and business development at ABTA, said: “It’s fantastic that consumers are really seeing the benefits of using a travel professional, recognising that they often make life easier, quicker and provide the reassurance people are looking for when booking a holiday.

“For many young people, who have grown up as digital natives, it’s encouraging that they’re recognising the limitations of doing everything themselves online or relying solely on review websites to help them plan. Their holiday is a chance to discover new places and new experiences, and they’re increasingly recognising that travel professionals offer unrivalled insight and expertise to help them have a better experience.”

Reasons to use a travel agent

Building from this, the ABTA Holidays Habits survey also reported that UK holidaymakers say the main advantages of booking with a travel agent are ease of booking (58%), saving time (51%) and feeling more confident (45%).

People aged between 25 and 34 are more likely than any other age group to say that booking with a travel professional means they will have a better holiday: one in five (20%) replied this way.

The findings suggest that this age group – digital natives with experience of travelling – have lost some confidence in travel review websites as a source of information. The report shows that trust in review sites for information and inspiration has fallen by 14% in the past year, down from 53% to 39%.

The limitations of relying on review websites have been highlighted by high-profile stories of a shed being ranked one of the best restaurants in London and a plastic tunnel at the supermarket being listed as the most popular attraction in the Cornish town of Bude.

The youngest travellers are increasingly asking experts to help them seek out unique and original travel experiences recognising that professionals know destinations well and can help him get the holiday that they want: 18 to 24 year-olds are more likely to say they will book with a travel professional for the new ideas and destinations they suggest (32%). This reflects that this age group are likely to be less experienced and keen to utilise the expertise of travel agents.

With the ABTA Holidays Habits report also finding that 40% of 18-24-year-olds who plan to spend more on travel next year doing so because they want to take the trip of a lifetime, and feedback from ABTA members reporting young people are increasingly looking for an authentic and original experience, there is a real opportunity for travel professionals companies to help them and have a memorable experience.

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