Agents feel they are “over the worst” of the pandemic’s impacts, with optimism for a strong late summer market and customers upgrading their 2021 holidays.
The three panellists for last week’s TTG Agent Matters all said they were working on getting their stores ready for normal service a little further down the line after likely offering an appointment-only service first and with PPE brought in and plans made for social distancing.
Joanne Dooey, owner of Love To Travel and president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, said it was vital for customers to see agents in their shops, although Scotland was still waiting for a date on when this would be possible when TTG went to press on Friday (12 June).
“I think it’s really important the customers do see you, even if you’re in there doing training with staff. It reminds them you’re booking.”
Louise Thomas, head of sales for Tailor Made Travel, which recently reopened 15 stores, said returning to shops had been useful for “getting staff used to” the new way of doing things. “The tide’s turning and there’s a definite buzz,” she said. “We absolutely just want to pioneer and move forward.”
Tina Nason, managing director of Carrick Travel, agreed getting some staff back into offices was “making them feel better”, adding “some sort of normality” had returned.
The agents agreed there were strong signs of a 2020 summer yet, although they emphasised that confirmation on air bridges was needed as well as an update to the Foreign Office’s blanket advice against travel before clients could book with confidence.
They were hopeful these would come in the next week. “We need to look at getting a Europe-wide air bridge,” said Dooey.
She further pointed out that Scottish agents had already lost a chunk of their summer market, as their school holidays run from June to late August.
“I’m still very optimistic for 2020,” she said. “There’s talk about resorts extending their summer seasons, too. I’ve got lots of customers who are desperate to get booked as soon as we’re open.”
Nason added: “I do think September onwards we’re going to see a much better influx than we get currently.”
All three agents agreed next year could well boom. “2021 is going really well – it’s not obviously where we would hope it to be, but compared to five or six weeks ago, it’s been quite surprising,” said Thomas. “People still want to go.”
Dooey added there was a definite pattern of customers upgrading their holidays. “They’re upgrading their room types, going for longer durations, moving to better hotels – because that money’s already tied in,” she said.
“As an agent community we need to be better at upselling and getting more for these customers.” Nason added that with prices “inevitably” set to rise next year, agents needed to “get the message across to book sooner rather than later”.
Dooey said she hoped that strong collaboration on industry issues across the sector - for example the Quash Quarantine campaign – would continue. “We’re stronger as one group,” she said.
Tune in to Agent Matters at 11am on Tuesdays on TTG’s Facebook page.