The collapse of Thomas Cook does not signal the end of package holidays. In fact, the opposite is true says Ian Crawford, brand manager at Holiday Hypermarket.
Thomas Cook’s demise came as a shock to many and was accompanied by claims that this could be the end of package holidays.
Commentators talked of the growth in personalized travel and the search for ‘experiences’ as though these are a danger to package providers, but the truth is that the best operators are using technology to evolve their product and follow these trends and, as a result, package holiday sales are stronger than they have been for years.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the number of packages booked in 2019 was only just below the record number sold in 2006, before the financial crisis stuck.
In this time the traditional 14-night fly-and-flop family holiday has dropped away in popularity, to be replaced by other styles of package getaway. At Holiday Hypermarket, we see two clear areas of growth.
The first is in all-inclusive breaks, which are now our most searched for holiday type. As the demand for all-inclusives has boomed, the quality of product has moved on too, with a push to luxury one of the key features.
Hotels that have moved with the times are always among the most searched by our visitors – think contemporary architecture and interior styling, food that is a speciality of the region, apps that help guests tailor their break from their smartphone.
The second driver of growth is the search for authentic experiences, with a significant number of holidaymakers ditching lazy days at the pool for excursions that take them off the usual tourist trail.
Experiences were once the preserve of small, specialist operators, but now the biggest operators have spotted the trend and jumped on board with their own options. TUI, for example has launched with tours that include everything from lunch with an astronaut to train rides through the Himalayas.
Tour operators have shown that they can be adaptable and so the package holiday has evolved, but it still offers holidaymakers the security of knowing they will be protected if things go wrong.
As a travel agent, our challenge is to keep improving our technology to ensure we can present the widest selection of holidays in a way that is easy for customers to navigate, they find inspiring and doesn’t overawe them with range of options available.
The days of the package holiday are not numbered – in fact we think 2020 could be its best year yet.