High street travel agents have made a significant contribution to the development of the tourism business while the recently emerged online travel services are gaining more popularity. As a result, traditional agents of the United Kingdom face a challenge to stay competitive and preserve their positions on the travel market. This study critically evaluates the perspectives on the future of travel agency and provides recommendations for agents based on research findings. The research objectives of the study are to critically evaluate the condition of high street travel agents in the United Kingdom, reveal the most important strengths and weaknesses of traditional travel agents in the country, assess the factors that threaten the development of traditional travel agents, and provide some evidence-based suggestions about the further development of traditional travel agents in conditions of the competitive environment.
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The sample included 325 participants who returned fully completed questionnaires. Data obtained through the survey underwent statistical analysis which included both descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics empowered the evaluation of the current condition of travel agents at the high street as well as in the online business platforms. Inferential statistics used such tools as the analysis of variance, Pearson’s correlation test, Chi-square test, and simple linear regression analysis. The complex of tools allowed assessing the nature and strength of relationships within, between, and among demographic data and travel behaviors of participants.
The research findings suggest paying attention to contemporary demographic trends. Thus, clients who use mobile applications and use online platforms in booking services are more likely to book a tour than the clients of physical offices. Another peculiarity is that the customers of high street travel agents prefer booking hotels while the users of online services book whole trips. These and other factors should be considered by travel agents to maintain their competitive ability and achieve sustainable development in the changing environment of the travel industry.
High street travel agents have been a chief factor in the development of the tourism business. Kurubacak and Altinpulluk (2017) claim that these agents have been providing both tourists and business travelers with reliable and convenient access to hospitality and other related services. As the local and international tourism industry was growing, these agents were receiving significant benefits. Nevertheless, technological advancement led to the rise of online trade agents. Consequently, travelers received an opportunity to search and book the services they need at different travel websites without visiting offices of high street travel agents (Albarran 2017). This new possibility was particularly appreciated by young working adults who have busy schedules. For them, the online model of travel agency has more benefits than the traditional one. The new model allows finding and comparing offers of diverse online vendors and selecting the best products at the most attractive price. At the same time, the increasing popularity of online travel agencies becomes a serious threat to traditional travel agents (O’Doherty & Einsiedel 2013). This paper analyses the current position of travel agents in Great Britain and defines prospects for their future development.
The Aim of the Research
Emerging technologies in the field of communication became a serious threat to traditional high street travel agents. Traditional agents are at a high risk of being eliminated from the tourism industry. The reports by Barnhart and Peñaloza (2013) and by Albarran (2017) state that the majority of travelers throughout the world prefer to book online through their laptops and smartphones instead of visiting physical offices. Currently, it is already impossible to resist change in the travel business caused by the rapid development of online services (Nestor & Schutt, 2014). Therefore, high street agencies need to search for new ways of dealing with a changing environment to stay competitive in the market. This dissertation aims to provide a critical evaluation of perspectives on the future of traditional travel agencies and suggest development possibilities to assist in overcoming the challenges these agencies face.
The Rationale for the Study
According to Müller, Lundmark, and Lemelin (2013), high street travel agents have had a significant influence on the advancement of tourism in the United Kingdom. These agencies are big employers and ensure the preservation of integrity to attract clients and win their trust (Albarran 2017). Nevertheless, the market is characterized by the rapid change of forces due to emerging technologies. Both tourists and business travelers make their choice in favor of online booking instead of wasting time traveling to physical offices (Safko 2013). Moreover, online bookings allow comparing the prices of competitors, the quality of service, as well as the location of facilities to purchase. Consequently, many travelers have preferred online vendors to high street travel agents. The study will evaluate the effect of emerging trends on traditional travel agents and discover opportunities for preservation of their sustainability in the market.
This research is an attempt to find ways of helping high street travel agents in the United Kingdom in overcoming the challenges of the contemporary market. Kurubacak and Altinpulluk (2017) claim that the United Kingdom has experienced a slight decline in the number of international tourists due to its decision to leave the European Union. The paper explores actions that have the potential for helping high street travel agents preserve their competitive advantage in the market. The researcher believes that the promotion of tourism industry development is likely to stabilize the country’s economy and improve employment opportunities.
The Research Objectives
The following research objectives empower the achievement of the goal of this research:
- To critically evaluate the current condition of high street travel agents in the United Kingdom.
- To determine the strengths and weaknesses of traditional travel agents in the country.
- To assess the major threats to their existence in the tourism industry.
- To develop evidence-based suggestions on future developmental prospects.
Data from primary and secondary sources will be collected and analyzed. It will contribute to the accomplishment of these objectives. Secondary sources such as books, reports, and journal articles will provide background information. Primary data collected from research participants will enable the researcher to understand the current condition of the issue under consideration. Suggestions that will be developed at the end of the study will be grounded on information collected from both sources.
Travel agents are an integral component of the tourism business worldwide. High street travel agents made a significant contribution to the development of this business in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the technological progress of recent decades stimulated the evolution of diverse online services including travel websites. Both business travelers and tourists appreciated the benefits of online booking because it allows saving time and choosing among many suggestions. Therefore, the existence of traditional travel agencies is at risk and needs interventions to provide their competitive ability and empower further growth at the travel market of the United Kingdom. This research was arranged to assess the current condition of high street travel agents in the United Kingdom, determine the strengths and weaknesses of traditional travel agents in the country, assess the major threats to their existence in the tourism industry, and suggest evidence-based recommendations on future developmental prospects.
The review of the literature on the problem of travel agencies revealed the following facts. First of all, there is evidence that traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies have been successfully functioning for decades. They provide their clients with a broad range of services including booking of hotels, car services, and other conveniences that clients need. However, this sustainable business was put at risk when a new business model emerged. This new approach was grounded on the use of information technology providing online access to travel services. It resulted in the transfer of some companies to the new model while others adopted a hybrid one that united physical offices and online services. Currently, travel agents are under the impact of the complex of factors such as political, economic, social, technological, ecologic, and legal. All of them determine the development of the travel market and have to be considered during the selection of tools that empower the sustainable development of traditional travel agents.
The travel industry in the United Kingdom faces certain threats to be addressed. The major threat is related to the rivalry among existing competitors. It is influenced by such factors as the threat of new entrants in the market, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of buyers, and threat of substitute products or services. For traditional travel agents, the threats of new entrants and substitute products and services provided by agencies adopting the new online business model are of primary importance.
At the same time, both traditional and new models of the travel market have certain strengths and weaknesses. For example, trust among clients is a major strength of the brick-and-mortar model. Moreover, the models have their target audiences that partially overlap. Thus, older adults prefer the traditional model while young adults consider the new model to be more convenient due to saving time. The weaknesses of both models are determined by their peculiarities. For example, agencies that preserve the brick-and-mortar model face the need for substantial finances to enable their physical offices to function. One of the weaknesses of online travel agencies is a misunderstanding that appears due to the lack of live contact.
The theoretical background allowed the researcher to plan the study able to address the research objectives and follow its goal. Two approaches to data collection such as personal interviews and survey monkey tools empowered the collection of data necessary for analysis. The reliability of the study is provided by the type of analysis used. Thus, research applied both descriptive and inferential statistics for quantitative analysis. Data were collected from a sample of 325 participants, which adds to the validity of the study. The diversity of statistical tools such as the analysis of variance, Pearson’s correlation test, Chi-square test, and simple linear regression analysis reveal the nature and strength of relationships within, between, and among demographic data as well as travel behaviors of participants.
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On the whole, the research findings prove that there are some differences in the functioning of both high street and online travel agents. For example, the study revealed that clients who use mobile applications for online platforms in booking services book tours or hotels more frequently than those who prefer high street travel agents. Also, clients of brick-and-mortar agencies prefer booking hotels while those who use online services are more likely to book whole trips, which is more profitable for agents. The analysis of booking experiences and travel behaviors leads to the conclusion that clients prefer online travel agents due to the comparatively low cost of their service, trustworthiness, convenience, and satisfactory level of the services provided.
Current research has both strengths and limitations. One of the strengths is a comprehensive analysis of the current literature on the problem of travel agents, which provides a reliable background for the study. Secondly, the choice of methods for data analysis can be considered a strength because a complex of statistical tools allows evaluating and identifying correlations and interdependencies among the variables. Finally, the sample size is also a benefit because it contributes to research reliability and validity. As for the weaknesses, they are as follows. First of all, the study is focused on clients of travel agents and does not include the opinion of agents themselves while their ideas can contribute to developing a more efficient business model. Secondly, many variables cannot be analyzed in detail within the limits of this study and thus distract attention.
The research findings can be applied to practice. For example, they can be used in developing instructions for high street travel agents that can stimulate their growth and help to preserve competitive ability. Further research can be focused on the practical implementation of theoretical knowledge obtained during this study through the development and application of change projects for some traditional travel agents.
Albarran, A 2017, Management of electronic and digital media, 6th edn, Cengage, London.
Kurubacak, G & Altinpulluk, H 2017, Mobile technologies and augmented reality in open education, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Lemelin, R 2013, New issues in polar tourism: communities, environments, politics, Springer, Dordrecht.
Nestor, P & Schutt, R 2014, Research methods in psychology: investigating human behavior, SAGE Publications, New York, NY.
O’Doherty, K & Einsiedel, E 2013, Public engagement and emerging technologies, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.
Safko, L 2013, The fusion marketing bible: fuse traditional media, social media, and digital media to maximise marketing, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.