'DIY' holidays hitting travel firms

The number of travel companies and tour operators that have closed down has risen by 45% over the last year.

More people are booking foreign holidays online
More people are booking foreign holidays online

As many as 77 travel agencies and tour operators went insolvent in the 12 months to March 2014 compared with 53 in the preceding 12 months, and 39 in 2011/12.

Accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy LLP, which conducted the research, said that the high street travel industry has been damaged by the growth of "DIY" holidays.

Anthony Cork, a partner at Wilkins Kennedy, added: "Travel agents on the high street were once the first and only port of call for booking holidays, but the tide has turned and we are now seeing online booking services and price comparison sites taking over."

He went on: "Technology has helped. Superfast broadband makes the process of cutting out the middleman easier by going direct to hotel websites to shave off another hundred pounds. The need to consult with a travel agent is rapidly disappearing. "

A spokeswoman for travel organisation Abta said: "The total number of both Abta and Atol (the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing consumer protection scheme) failures over this period was 17, which is low compared with previous years.

"Since Abta and Atol represent the vast majority of travel businesses in the UK, the figure quoted by this firm of accountants relating to travel agent and operator failures looks to be way off the mark.

"The majority of travel businesses have successfully adapted their businesses to accommodate changing consumer booking habits, while research shows that a majority of consumers consider the Abta and Atol badges as important or essential when booking their holiday.

"There is also a very serious issue to consider here in terms of holiday booking fraud. The police and Get Safe Online have advised consumers not to pay directly by bank transfer into an individual's bank account, a message that Abta supports."