Mintel identifies a growing social divide among those using high-street agents that underpins a split in agency business between mass-market and premium holidays.
Clients are most likely to be high-income managerial, administrative or professional people – in social groups A and B – or skilled manual workers, in social group C2.
Within both those groups, agency customers tend to be couples without children – whether they have no children, have yet to start a family or their children have left home.
Mintel notes a forecast rise of 13% in the size of social groups A and B in the UK over the next five years and suggests agents aim to offer these clients a “lifestyle advisory service”.
Its research identifies those aged 25-34 as the highest users of agents – the age group expected to see the fastest population growth over the next five years. It notes: “This challenges the common assumption that travel agencies cater mainly for older, less tech-savvy customers.”
But Mintel also reveals a surprisingly high degree of agent popularity among younger adults, concluding: “Those aged 16-24 place a high value on the expertise, support and time-saving advantages of using an agent.”
It suggests targeting young adults through the design of shops, happy hour promotions, blind date competitions and use of social networking sites. It might even be worth inviting local bands to play in larger agencies, the report suggests.
Mothers with young children from households whose main earner is a manual worker are most likely to use an agent to book a family-friendly holiday, while retired people are more likely than others to see agents as the most convenient way to book.
Mintel suggests the high street will remain “the default booking channel” among the retired for years to come. But it argues the key to agents’ future lies in “offering something a bit different to higher income groups” and “clear alternatives to the commoditised online market”.