Online and phone bookings up
According to the Ski Club’s figures, online bookings have increased by 54% since 1994, admittedly from a small base, to 278,000.
Direct bookings to tour operators by phone have also increased by 16%, probably as customers have researched online, but decided to make their booking over the phone, by talking to experienced sales staff.
Travel agents don’t sell ski any more
The stand-out statistic however is the decimation of travel agent sales. Almost 240,000 fewer people booked their holidays via travel agents in 2011 compared to 2004 – a fall of 79% from 300,000 to just over 60,000.
Obviously the rise of the internet has led a to reduction in the number of shops. Only this week Thomas Cook announced plans to close 200 of their shops.
Travel agents (excluding specialist ski agencies) have never had a great product knowledge of ski. Many shops have stories of agents hiding to avoid taking a ski enquiry, or trying to palm it off onto a colleague.
Yet despite these limitations, travel agencies often brought skiing and snowboarding to a new audience. The fall in their influence has not been compensated with online booking, and perhaps more importantly, they were also influential in bringing new consumers into the market.
The travel agent, despite the stereotypes, will be missed by the snowsports industry.