The Co-operative Travel Consortium is aiming to secure 50% of the business its members took last January during its first month of trading in 2021.
Boss Alison Holmes told TTG November had been the group’s best sales month since February.
She said developments in efforts to produce a Covid-19 vaccine and news that the 14-day quarantine in England will be reduced with a negative test gave members reasons to be upbeat heading into the peak booking period.
“The combination of the fantastic progress being made on vaccines, the opening of further travel corridors, the reopening of high street travel agencies next month [tier dependent] and now this latest development to reduce quarantine will undoubtedly give peaks a welcome boost,” said Holmes.
“We know this January won’t be the same as previous years but all this positive news is making consumers more comfortable to think of travelling and we’re encouraged by the booking numbers that we’re seeing each week.
“We’re hoping for 50% of our usual January volume. Rebookings for 2021, which were made earlier in the year, accounted for about 40% of customers but we’re still hopeful to see half of what we did last January.”
The consortium held a virtual conference for its members last week.
It was the first gathering of its kind since membership rose sharply in the wake of the Thomas Cook collapse after a large number of Freedom Travel Group businesses joined its ranks.
Holmes said the event gave an opportunity to update members on group commercials, share industry research and explain new support tools.
She said the number of stores within the group since March had dipped from 172 to 140 – 16 of which belonged to Central England Co-op whose shops became part of Midcounties’ retail division in July.
“We’ve only had a handful of agencies that we’ve lost this year and in most cases it’s been a case of agents consolidating and closing down some of their shops to focus on more profitable branches.”
Holmes also revealed Co-op was currently processing four applications for new members – three from established travel businesses switching consortia and one from a new agency.
Although she stressed the consortium was not focused on “chasing fast expansion” since its post-Cook surge.
Ahead of peaks, Co-op has launched a series of virtual cluster meetings for members to meet regionally for business updates and to share skills and experiences. A new marketing campaign and CRM system are also being rolled out.
“Our members have been really professional and resilient this year and there’s a real sense of positivity within the group for what 2021 will hold,” said Holmes.
“We’ve understandably spent a lot of time focusing on 2020 and now it’s time to look ahead, be optimistic and make sure our members are as well supported as they can be and ready for when this demand to travel comes.”