One in four travel agents are concerned about pricing and the cost of living and energy prices, according to a survey of members of The Advantage Travel Partnership.
Many agents are worried about the impact of rising costs on holiday prices next year and how this will affect consumer demand.
One in five also cited the recruitment of experienced staff as a top concern.
In the survey, 92% of members also reported they are now working more hours since the pandemic to provide out of hours support to customers and deal with airline changes and cancellations.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO The Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Agents now face their next monumental challenge of the cost-of-living crisis, whilst servicing debt, with spiralling operating costs. Whilst cashflow wasn’t an issue as they entered the pandemic, it will be now.”
She said one in four members have emerged from the pandemic with debts to service having taking loans to keep their businesses afloat.
“We have seen the hangover of Covid leave travel agency business owners worried and concerned with debt they are now having to service. Businesses need leeway and space to be able to bounce back – which our members simply haven’t had,” she said.
“More costs and burdens placed on them will put them under increasing pressure and targeted support from the Government is needed now more than ever. It is essential, particularly for businesses that have been severely impacted for almost three years now.”
She said cap energy rises will be welcomed by business owners but are “not the holy grail” and that many businesses will not make it through the winter.
“So many business have stripped out costs already, so what do they do now? How do you take more cost out when you are lean already?” she said.
“I’m hoping that targeted support for small businesses is something that will be high on this new Government’s agenda. Small businesses such as travel agents have been crippled over the past two years due to Covid.”
On the positive side, she said 94% of members have reported gaining new customers since the pandemic with around a third of these new customers being in the 35-44 age bracket and another third aged 45-54.
The Advantage team said all-inclusive holidays are coming back, after having dipped in popularity this year, and so are cruise holidays.
“There are more options for ex-UK cruises, which creates an opportunity for agents as it takes out the need to book flights,” said Kelly Cookes, Chief Commercial Officer.
She said since vaccine and testing requirements have lifted, demand for city breaks is also returning.
“Members are seeing bookings steadily increasing with strong sales for Krakow, Prague and Reykjavik. This winter there is also increasing demand for Christmas markets across Europe, as many Brits missed their festive trips during the pandemic,” she said.