Phil Turner joined Beds with Ease as managing director in March 2019 from sister company Broadway Travel. Rob Gill catches up with Turner to find out how the bed bank works with agents
What range of hotels do you offer to agents?
A portfolio of 300,000 hotels which are directly contracted or through third parties. Our preferred directly contracted stock is 15,000 hotels – the majority is beach product ranging from three to five-star.
We have a contracting team of eight people covering destinations where we have direct contracts – North Africa, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Madeira, Italy, Turkey, mainland Spain, Balearics, Canaries, Malta and Croatia. Certain hotel chains also cover other destinations.
Are you looking to add more contracted hotels in the near future?
At the back end of last year, we took on three contractors in Turkey, Portugal and the Balearics. City hotels are also on the radar but they are different from beach product. We’re looking at more investment in technology before we can offer city hotels as directly contracted product.
We’re looking at increasing the contracting teams to cover destinations such as Dubai and certain areas of the US – New York and Las Vegas. We’re also increasing the offering in certain places in Italy where we already have a portfolio.
What have been your priorities in your first year in the role?
We’ve initially invested more in the after-sales side and getting that up to the level I needed to look after agents. I brought in head of sales Nicola Harper as well as a new head of operations and a new team in Newcastle. Nicola is first port of call for agents.
Agents can always call somebody up – we have a 24-hour contact number. If something goes wrong, we’re there. We’re also confident on product and price. Agents are looking for service, guidance and help.
We did a rebrand in March/April last year. It’s not just a new logo, but looking at what the company stands for. The company turned 18 year last September and needed a fresh approach.
So what’s next for Beds with Ease?
We may look at offering tours packages, such as Nile cruises and land-based trips from hotels. We already have a small offering in certain destinations - Morocco and Madeira.
A new website will be launched shortly with more search options to narrow them down, as well as accommodation reviews, Google Maps, descriptions and images. It will be cleaner and easier to use.
Agents want to get it booked as quickly as possible. We expect a lot of new agents to book directly on the new website. We also work with API links with our main agents.
The priority is adding new partners as we grow – Nicola has done a great job getting new people to book with us. Previously we have gone under the radar but we’re pushing our brand out there and the service offer.
You obviously have confidence in the dynamic packaging sector?
Dynamic packaging is coming back - people are feeling confident about selling it and that there won’t be any issues for their customers. It offers more flexibility and there’s still demand for that DP model.
We’re very geared up so that if something happens we’re very quick to react. The Thomas Cook situation did delay us in implementing our strategy plan for a couple of months as we were busy helping agents and talking to hotels.
With bed banks, the question is how do you set yourself apart? With price and products, there will always be some similarities. We’re looking at niche areas by offering services we don’t feel the others can.
How do you reward agents?
We’re creative in how we reward agents with incentives themed around the time of the year. We offer everything from shopping vouchers to a free hotel stay or putting them into a raffle. We also have a Facebook account that’s developed into a real little community. Commission rates are bespoke for each agent depending what they do.
What’s been the highlight so far?
Putting in my senior management team changes and after-sales structure has been very good, alongside the rebrand. I want to create an environment where everybody is proud to work for Beds with Ease. So much has happened in the past year, I’m excited about the future. We’ve grown over the past year and I’m confident we will grow over the next 12 months.