The use of the traditional holiday brochure as part of the booking process appears to be making a comeback, with a third of holidaymakers saying they relied on brochures this year, according to the World Travel Market Industry Report 2016, released today (Monday 7 November) at WTM London.
The report, which polled 1,000 people who holidayed in 2016, reveals 34% of those who booked a holiday in the past year used a brochure as part of the process and comparative figures from 2015 and 2014 show that – far from dying out – the holiday brochure is enjoying resurgence.
The figure is more than double the number in 2015, when 14% said they had done so and over five times higher than in 2014, when 6% said they had used a brochure.
The first brochure was produced in 1953 for Skytours, now part of Thomson and, although brochure use has declined since the advent of more sophisticated research opportunities (the 34% figure compares to 80% of respondents saying they had used a brochure in previous years), the results suggests that those operators that are looking to ditch the brochure for good could be missing out on potential business.
Thomson and sister company First Choice plan to ditch brochures entirely by 2020, with MD Nick Longman saying things have moved on since the days when people used to “spend hours flicking through the brochure and decide where they wanted to go”.
Instead, owner TUI is investing in video content and technology for its online channels, personalising content to suit individual likes and budget. Its new concept stores, Holiday Design Stores, have replaced brochure racks with interactive maps, video walls, booking booths with screens to bring holidays to life and an ‘advice bar’ with staff on hand to offer a personalised holiday planning service, with the use of technology.
Gemma Antrobus, chair of the Association of Independent Tour Operators’ Specialist Travel Agents group, believes the decision by her agency, Haslemere Travel, to take brochures off shelves led to the company increasing its reputation for having knowledgeable staff, who sell holidays on experience and expertise, rather than relying on “pretty pictures in a brochure”.
She does admit to relying on brochures from specialist tour operators and says customers like to take something home after the booking is made.
Some operators are not ready to ditch the brochure just yet and are in fact launching brand-new first-time brochures for new product, such as Travel 2, which will bring out its first standalone cruise brochure later this year.
Another is over-50s coach specialist Grand UK Holidays. The company’s Sales Director, Harold Burke, said: “Some operators are phasing them out but we still regard the brochure as a worthwhile sales tool, especially for mature holidaymakers.”
WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “The brochure has been part of the holiday booking process for decades – those of us who remember the days before the Internet fondly recall spending many an hour flicking through page after page of images of hotel exteriors while searching for the perfect holiday.
“WTM’s latest research tells us reports of the brochure’s death appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Despite some people’s predictions, it does seem the brochure has evolved, rather than died.
“This is the third year in a row that our research has reported a growth in the number of people using brochures. In the digital age, amid the many more ‘sophisticated’ interactive
digital experiences, it’s astonishing that one in three used a brochure this year to choose their holiday.”
WTM London is the event where the travel and tourism industry conducts its business deals. Buyers from the WTM Buyers’ Club have a combined purchasing responsibility of $22.6 billion (£15.8bn) and sign deals at the event worth $3.6 billion (£2.5bn).