Has a local town hall or business cooperative organized a seminar on business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs In the current Covid environment, certain types of businesses – it would be reasonable to assume – would be lower on the list of opportunities than others. Right at the bottom in fact. And one of them would be a travel agency, whether physical or online.
The ACAVE association of travel agencies in Spain estimates that three quarters of companies barely reached ten percent of 2019 revenue in 2020. In addition to the 30% who have already fallen to the wall due to Covid, around 90% of those who remain “are still at risk”.
The agencies were the forgotten item the tourism industry; forgotten insofar as it is not airlines, tour operators and hotels that are getting all the attention. To say would underestimate a situation from which only large operators, such as the creation of the merged Barceló-Globalia agency, could be among those surviving in reasonable health.
Aspiring entrepreneurs can of course sense an opportunity. If existing agencies collapse and burn, there will be gaps in the market once things have settled down. It’s one way of looking at it. But for now, one should think that the travel agency industry comes with all the alarm bells possible to warn new players.
It may simply be – and it may be emphasized – that a sharp contraction in the sector requires different approaches in terms of some tourism players who recognize that what is at stake is important. May, because participation in the travel agency industry is not exactly what some of these stakeholders are relevant to or why they exist – town halls and regional governments, for example.
But it is precisely these entities that enter the market.
The government of the Canaries and the town hall of Benidorm are at the head of this diversification of public service activity. In the case of the Canaries, more than 50 million euros are expected to be injected into something which, to quote the island’s tourism minister, “will be an innovative, intelligent and sustainable tourism destination platform, which will bring together data, information and services to improve the tourist experience ”.
And what does all this mean? Your hypothesis is as good as mine and that of various commentators from the tourism industry who have no idea and who categorically reject the idea that a government gets involved in the way that is proposed (if, that is, what is actually proposed was clear). Meanwhile, Yaiza Castilla, the minister, explained that there had been discussions with software providers, for example Amadeus, and online travel agencies such as Logitravel to discuss the “strategy”.
Travel agencies and tour operators fear that this state-funded project is in fact in direct competition with them. For all that concerns smart and sustainable tourist destination and despite the fact that the minister is trying to allay fears, the Canarian government – this is what one thinks – is essentially setting itself up as a travel agency.
Then we arrive at the town hall of Benidorm, which has launched Visit Benidorm Travel, through which – says Mayor Toni Pérez – visitors will be able to design and organize their own vacations by choosing and booking accommodation, buying tickets from plane, train and bus. Perez doesn’t seem to have said anything about improve the tourist experience – it is left to the Minister of Tourism of the Canaries – but there is no doubt that the experience of tourists will be that of an online travel agency.
We understand of course that the destinations want to do everything they can to boost their tourism. But is it so? Benidorm, by attracting its main UK market, could enter a promotion agreement by having a video of the Best Bits of Johnny Vegas, aka The Oracle, from the TV comedy series and probably still as good as a travel agent. A town hall or a regional government entering this sector seems badly, in particular because of the difficulties which the sector undergoes.
Given the examples of Benidorm and the Canaries, could others be tempted to follow the same path. What about our own government in the Balearic Islands? He would surely be enticed by an innovative, smart and sustainable tourism destination platform in Canarian style, as the words could also come out of the mouths of the CEOs and ministers of the Balearic Islands – Iago Negueruela or Francina Armengol, for example. The Mallorca Council, through its foundation for tourism, is just as passionate, if not more so.
So, could Viajes Armengol or the Visit Balearics Travel online agency become a reality? I tell you what, there could be an advantage if the government was running such a thing. Tourist tax could be paid directly. There might even be a discount for direct payment and miss out on the intermediary of the hosting provider. It is a thought. Here again …