Help is at hand for two lucky agencies – Destina Travel and Key Holidays – who have won business support throughout 2020 from the TTG Travel Heroes. Here, we introduce the winners.
Destina Travel is based in the village of Hagley, near Stourbridge in the West Midlands, and has been trading from the same shop for about 50 years.
The agency was formerly known as Mercian Travel before rebranding to Destina as part of a makeover in 2017, and is a member of The Travel Network Group (TTNG). It also runs its own bridge and bowling tour operation to Spain for four months every winter.
Destina currently employs five staff, including two recent younger recruits, while a sixth team member works for the tour operation on a consultancy basis.
Being based in the same high street shop for so many decades, Destina has benefited from getting business from multigenerational members of the same families. Its key family market has also been bolstered by a new nearby housing estate with 200 homes.
Destina’s other key demographics are over-60s customers – 30% of the client base – while solo travellers account for 20% of sales, and groups 2%. The agency has a repeat booking rate of 60%.
The type of holidays being sold are evenly split between long-haul, short-haul packages and ocean cruises, which each account for 25% of sales. Escorted touring is strong with 20% of bookings, with the other 5% of sales going on river cruises.
A major reason for the rebrand from Mercian Travel to Destina three years ago was to take advantage of being based in an affluent area, with the agency feeling that it had not been successfully advertising to the right people under its previous name. But while this move has created impressive growth in attracting new customers, this momentum now seems to have plateaued.
The agency may have seen some benefit from Thomas Cook’s collapse in late September with October being a particularly good month for newclients.
The rebrand and new name have not been the only major change for Destina, with two new younger staff members, aged 19 and 21, recently joining the agency after having the same established team for many years.
Improving destination knowledge is a priority identified by Sam Tyers, Destina’s head of leisure sales. For example, none of the current staff members have travelled to the Far East and Indochina, which are popular destinations for clients.
Another area of development is enhancing the staff’s ability to sell tailor-made holidays. While the agency is good at converting package holidays, tailor-made has been harder. Destina wants to ensure it is known for selling all types of holiday, not just luxury breaks.
Destina staff also need to become better at knowing which operators are best for certain destinations, as well as improving their customer service skills and ability to use booking systems.
Using the Travel Heroes’ advice to up their game is vital now that they face increased competition from other independent agencies following Hays Travel’s takeover of former Thomas Cook shops in the area.
Destina is also looking for guidance on how to better market to potential clients with its new team– it already emails offers to customers, posts daily on Facebook and a couple of times a week on Twitter and Instagram. It also advertises in a quarterly local magazine and has done a couple of travel shows but struggled to get the desired numbers.
Tyers says the potential for growth is there and the team has the passion to make this happen – it’s just knowing how to get there. And that’s where the Travel Heroes’ powers will come into their own.
ROMILEY, GREATER MANCHESTER
Key Holidays first opened its high street agency in the village of Romiley near Stockport, Greater Manchester in 1991.
The independent agency, a TTNG member, has a team of five (four full time, one part-time), including director Jonathan Cunningham, with more than 100 years’ combined travel experience.
This knowledge allows Key Holidays to find the best holiday for customers drawn from surrounding villages, with affluent clients booking a varied range of trips – and not just luxury holidays.
Cunningham says his team’s “passion, customer focus and strong ambition to be better” helped Key’s application for the TTG Travel Heroes project.
Key’s philosophy revolves around offering package holidays with Abta and Atol protection – this “honest, upfront and down-to-earth approach” is one reason it has a high repeat business rate, with 80% of bookings coming from existing customers.
The agency’s client base is largely made up of those aged over 60 (35%) and families (30%), while a significant group of existing customers (around 10%) are solo travellers. Key Holidays has managed to increase its turnover over the past five years, with the main share of its business split between short- and long-haul sales, representing about 40% of sales – 80% in total.
Ocean and river cruise account for approximately 7% of its turnover, with touring running at 5%. Most new business comes in via personal recommendations but some new clients are finding the agency through Google searches for independent agencies in Stockport. For new customers, the agency sends out welcome-home letters and contacts them after their holiday.
Key Holidays aims to secure commission of between 10% and 15% on bookings and will refuse sales they view as not being “viable”. It does not carry out staff training owing to a lack of time and relies on staff mentoring to boost performance.
The agency emails its client database once or twice a month but these are not targeted or segmented to reflect types of customer or travel preferences. Social media marketing includes a presence on Facebook (where it has 2,000 followers) and Twitter, and the agency has just started using Instagram and is “playing” with LinkedIn as a potential promotional tool.
Key Holidays is a longstanding agency with impressive repeat business and growing sales but is keen to use the skills and knowledge of the Travel Heroes to take the business to the next level.
Debbie Barraclough, who works in sales, marketing and business development, says: “Daily business and growing administration limits our opportunities to market ourselves. We would love the impetus and support to really make us fly and massively appreciate the opportunity that this may give.”
Key Holidays wants to reach clients who currently book direct and become a one-stop shop for booking the full range of holidays – they think they are missing something when it comes to making the most of customer relationships.
The agency offers a very personal approach but has a desire to be better and is open to ideas for improvement.
Plans include getting a branded mobile unit from Jet2holidays. The agency wants to target river cruising and the escorted touring market, as well as use the Travel Heroes initiative to help them understand MSC Cruises’ product better so they can grow sales of the line’s itineraries.
Improving the agency’s online marketing activity is a priority and there are plans to start segmenting its e-shots to secure a higher conversion rate – they know there’s potential here but need some help to tap into it.
For progress updates, keep an eye out in future issues of TTG or visit ttgtravelheroes.com