Julian Knight: The holiday is over for travel agencies

It's nearly a decade since I last stepped into a travel agency.

I wanted a week in the sun, with a handy time flight, hotel by a beach but nowhere near the Magalufs, Falirakis and Ibizas of this world. But I was a single traveller and that was a problem. Holiday availability was limited, as were hotels, and supplements would be due and this was even out of season, when seats were going begging. Frankly I was viewed as a bit weird for wanting to go on my own. So I, like thousands of others, went and booked my first holiday online.

A decade without travel agents has been liberating. Those single travellers that the holiday companies disdained (it was club 18-30 or families everywhere) eventually grew into partnerships and families but by then had found another way of booking their holidays. Now I do the flights, hotels and car hire separately. For instance, I'm off to the Ashes this winter with a friend and every component of the holiday was booked within half an hour.

The August bank holiday is the biggest travel weekend of the year – with two million people crowding into Britain's airports – but a pall of fear hangs over the industry as thick as any volcanic ash cloud. How many holiday companies will survive? Already this summer, we have had several high-profile failures with travellers stranded and I wonder how many more will go as the cashflow dries up in the autumn.

It's always been a big sales point that travel companies gave you protection through Atol and Abta membership, but just ask the holidaymakers of Kiss or Goldtrail who were asked to fork out extra by angry hoteliers what that means to the holiday experience. What's more, whenever I've been to a resort in recent years, the worst hotel there – and there is always one absolute dive – is packed to the rafters (or should that be roaches?) with package holiday customers. Whereas, as an internet booker, I get to traverse virtual walk-throughs and see precisely what customers think of the hotels. Sure, I run the limited risk of my airline going bust – and booking with a well-established carrier sorts that – but other problems can be protected through a combination of cheap annual travel insurance cover and using a credit card.

Don't go soft on benefit reform

Those on the lowest incomes suffered the most in the Budget, says the Institute of Fiscal Studies. There is something sickening about the idea of a Budget which penalises the poorest the most. But the root of the problem is that many of these individuals have been shunted on to benefits in the first place – which are now being cut – rather than being involved in the economy. Prozac and disability allowance have been the twin pillars of social policy in this country to all of our shame since the 1980s. This makes it more important than ever that the coalition Government finds the money to back Iain Duncan Smith's proposed reforms to benefits which will see people for the first time genuinely rewarded for getting back to work. It will be expensive – about £4bn a year for starters – and the jobs will be hard to find. But what precisely is the purpose of this Government if it doesn't try to tackle this most pressing of problems? I wouldn't mind paying more tax for that – just leave those on the lowest incomes out of it next time.

Pedalling for Macmillan

Regular readers will know I'm no fan of the financial services industry – nor what passes in these organisations for customer service – but next week a host of senior executive from some of Britain's top banks, building societies and insurers will be cycling 584 miles in eight days across the breadth of the UK and Ireland in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Anyone who has dealings with Macmillan knows what an amazing job it does for those with cancer and their loved ones. If you can, do give generously to this cause at www.moneyspinners.org.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

    Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee