Only a quarter of holidaymakers believe travel agents offer good value for money.
And 42% "actively disagreed" that agents offer the best deal, according to the results of a poll by consumer organisation Holiday Which?
Almost half (46%) who arranged their own holiday themselves preferred the DIY route because they wanted to get the best deal or believed it was cheaper to arrange it themselves.
The survey of almost 3,000 adults carried out last September and October also found that consumers are unsure of travel agents" impartiality due to the big chains being linked to major tour operators.
Around one in five (22%) thought that agents in general do not give honest, trustworthy advice, and only 38% believing that their advice is independent.
Of those who booked with an agent, 70% believed they received independent advice and nine out of ten said they were satisfied with the way staff dealt with their booking, including any queries. The same proportion said they would recommend the agent they used to a friend who wanted to take a similar holiday.
People who used an agent were less likely to shop around, the research found. The most visited agents were the multiple chains - Thomas Cook, followed by Thomson, the Going Places and First Choice/Holiday Hypermarket.
"The muscle of these big chains may be shrinking, but they are still a powerful force between them they accounted for 58% of the bookings made with agents in our survey," Holiday Which? said.
The research also found that half of those who had booked a holiday abroad within the last 12 months had arranged everything themselves without using an agent.
Slightly fewer (44%) used an agent to book at least part of their holiday.
More than two-fifths used the internet to research before booking, compared to 29% who phone or visited a travel agency to do the same. Most of those who did visit only did so to pick up brochures.
Only 14% of those surveyed asked friends and family for holiday advice and just 13% read a guidebook.
Fewer than half (47%) of people who had contact with an agent prior to booking actually made their reservation with the agent, although this figure rose to 60% among those aged over 65.
Good news for agents is that the majority of people who used one to book were positive about their experience - 62% thought that the agent had tried to sell them the holiday most suited to them and 81% agreed that they got honest, trustworthy advice.
But one in five (18%) didn"t agree that the agent tried to sell them the most suitable holiday.
by Phil Davies
Friday, February 22, 2008