For several years now, we’ve mainly turned to our computers to book a holiday. However, there’s still something about visiting a travel agent and picking up a glossy brochure which gets you really excited to go on holiday. By 2020, this will be a thing of the past for most people. The UK’s busiest tour operator, Thomson, who also own First Choice, are phasing out holiday brochures in favour of digital counterparts.
TUI, who own the operator, say that the move has been made because most people now use the internet to research holidays. This means that customers are looking for a more interactive digital experience when they book. Over the next four years, millions of brochures will be replaced by screens and new technology in the group’s 600 physical branches.
The first ever brochure was printed in 1953 for Skytours, a brand which is still part of the TUI group today. When announcing the move, the managing director of the group, Nick Longman said that it was part of a UK-wide rebrand that will begin next year. The Thomson brand will be phased out completely, and replaced by TUI. The UK & Ireland division of the group is the largest tour operator, with 5.5 million customers and over 10,000 employees.
Mr. Longman said that the decision to get rid of brochures had been influenced by how holidaymakers research and book their getaways. He said that it’s ‘essential’ that travel companies adapt to these changes in order to ensure people will still visit the website and shops. He added that times have moved on from when people would visit a travel agency and spend hours looking through a brochure to decide where to go.
TUI also intends to invest in video content and new technology for online channels, which will help to bring holidays to life, personalising each customer’s experience to show how holidays can be tailored to suit their needs and budget. The group is also considering installing virtual reality headsets in its retail stores, which would allow customers to see a 360 degree tour of hotels and resorts.
The TUI Group prints almost five million brochures each year, across 58 different titles. To avoid letting go of the print industry completely, TUI is intending to print a ‘lifestyle magazine’ on a smaller scale. Thomson has also developed several new concept stores, known as Holiday Design Stores. These stores have already forgone the racks of brochures in favour of new technology such as video walls and interactive maps.
Does the new technology spell the end of high street travel agents?
Not according to Longman, who still believes that there is a need for travel shops on the High Street. He said that he believes there will always be customers who want the knowledge, experience and assurance that they get from visiting a travel agent. He said that the technology will be treated as a tool for the retail advisers, to help them continue to provide ‘excellent service’.
Remember those coloured ‘deal’ cards that you used to see in travel agents’ windows? Well, there was public outcry when those were scrapped, but according to Longman, it was the right decision in order for the company to stay relevant, which is what he hopes the brochure phase out will be.
It’s unlikely that getting rid of brochures will see the Grim Reaper arrive on the High Street, but instead the regular customers will learn to use the new technology to design their dream holiday.
Longman said in his speech that Brexit hasn’t really had an effect on the group’s business so far, as they had planned well in advance for any impact. However, due to the current volatile exchange rate, customers’ holiday money isn’t going quite as far as it used to, so Longman believes that there will be an increase in All Inclusive bookings- which make up 60% of First Choice’s business.
Will you miss travel brochures? Or do you think the new technology will be better?