Advantage members ‘bucking trend’ as 17% plan to open new branches this year

Advantage members open more shops
By Kelly Ranson
Home » Advantage members ‘bucking trend’ as 17% plan to open new branches this year

An Advantage Travel Partnership survey has revealed that 17% of its members are planning to expand and open new branches this year.

Existing members have opened 22 new branches since the start of the pandemic – 50% of which have been in the last 12 months.

The survey results are in contrast to figures from the Centre for Retail Research, which revealed that 10,494 retail shops closed last year.

Speaking ahead of the Advantage’s conference at the Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa in Cancun, Mexico this week, CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “Agents really are keeping the high street alive – we are seeing more travel agents expanding and there are new agencies opening up. Expansion has been at a faster pace than before the pandemic.”

Among the agencies expanding is the three-branch business, Sunlounger Travel. The agency set up in 2019 and has plans for up to 25 stores in the next five years.

Managing Director Iain Kirkbright said: “I think the growth of agents on the high street is primarily down to the fact that people like the personal touch, they want to get in-person advise from someone who deals with travel all day long, they want the reassurance that they are making the right decisions with their money.”

Fred Olsen Travel currently has 19 stores and is aiming for 25 stores by the end of 2025. Director of Retail Paul Hardwick said while they have plans to grow, there are some barriers.

Paul explained: “We are facing challenges in our expansion, particularly when it comes to recruitment and cost management. There were a lot of people who dropped out of the industry throughout the pandemic and left industry completely. As part of our recruitment drive, we’ve created a travel academy to bring apprentices into the business. We’ve also created a three-month intensive training programme to help bring in new people who we can then place in our new stores.”

Advantage Travel Partnership Chief Commercial Officer Kelly Cookes said: “ The demise of the high street has been a long-term trend but what we’re seeing is that travel agents are integral to returning the UK high street to its former glory. New branches opening on high streets to meet the growing demand in-person sales is a trend that we are seeing amongst our Advantage travel agency partners across Britain.”

See also: Late bookings lead to better-than-expected May half term for Advantage

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