The British high street’s unlucky 2013 continues. Thomas Cook has revealed plans to close 195 branches, with a loss of 2,500 jobs. Do you still book your holidays on the high street, or do you go online?
After the news that the shutters were coming down on Jessops, Republic and many HMV stores, Thomas Cook has this week announced plans to close nearly 200 Thomas Cook and Co-Operative branches around the UK.
This is bad news for the 2,500 employees who are set to lose their jobs, but if one of these stores is on your local high street, will you be sad to see it vanish?
The hard facts are that fewer of us are choosing to book holidays face-to-face with a travel agent these days. According to a recent Mintel report, the number of holidays booked with a travel agent dropped by 13% from 2008 to 2012 (from 21.7 million down to 18.6 million).
Online vs high street holiday bookings
It’s no big surprise. Tough financial times mean many of us have cut back on our spending on trips abroad, and people are now used to booking their own holidays online, assuming it’s cheaper as well as more convenient that way.
But in Which? Travel research last year, we found that visiting a high street travel agent can be just as cheap as booking online. And a good travel agent can be invaluable in ensuring you get a suitable and good value holiday, put together a complex itinerary and help sort out travel essentials like visas.
In a Conversation post last year, commenter Chrissie was happy with her experience with a Thomson agent, who matched the online price:
‘I found my in-store experience very positive; speaking face to face with a member of staff is far more preferable to looking at a computer screen’
But Tpoots wasn’t a fan:
‘It’s a shame really, the high street travel agent is more about “How much commission will this make me?” rather than “Is this the ideal holiday for my customer?” these days.’
Thomas Cook could do better
But is Thomas Cook’s predicament just down to the fact people are moving away from the high street and booking holidays online?
Perhaps there’s more to it – could it be that customers aren’t rebooking with the travel giant because they are unimpressed with the service or quality of holidays offered?
In our 2012 holiday companies survey, Thomas Cook got the second lowest customer score of the 26 firms we featured. And in our recent airline survey, Thomas Cook Airlines also got low customer scores (just 36% for its short-haul flights, and 43% for its long-haul flights).
Do you have a Thomas Cook or Co-operative travel agent branch on your local high street? Will you miss having the branch on your doorstep if it closes down, or do you prefer to book online anyway?