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Features

06 Apr 2018

BY Abra Dunsby

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Making the most of your travel agency's back office space

Your agency’s back-office area needn’t be ‘dead’ space. Abra Dunsby catches up with some savvy agents who have made the most of the extra room

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We speak to the travel agents who have converted dead back office spaces into everything from studios to kids' play areas

The studio

Travel Designers in Balham knows how to make the most of a small space – its kitchen now doubles up as a studio, where the team films in-house promotional videos.

 

“If you’ve got a small agency space, you need to think outside the box and be imaginative,” says managing director Nick Harding McKay.

 

“Behind the green screen is storage and the kitchen, so it was a bit of a dead area. It’s surprising how small a space the green screen takes up, and it all packs up into two boxes, so it’s really portable too.”

 

McKay tells me the company started using video 18 months ago to make its Facebook page and Twitter account more interactive.

 

“It helps us stand out,” he adds. “It’s also a great way to link with our suppliers – they love the idea. It makes the promotions personal.”

 

The videos are filmed weekly using the green screen, and are promoted on social media, on the agency’s website and in weekly e-zines.

 

The client lounge

The client lounge

When Global Travel Group member ItsSo Travel moved in to high street premises in St Ives, Cambridgeshire a year ago, it transformed the back office into a customer lounge and private meeting space.

 

“We use it for honeymoon couples, for clients who want more detailed planning for their holiday, or for those who want to be out of earshot and have a private discussion,” says director Paul Welling.

 

The smart lounge features a mural of New York, a seating area, a fridge stocked with prosecco and soft drinks, and a select few brochures.

 

“It’s great for honeymoon couples or high-value bookings. They get a glass of champagne or a coffee from our coffee machine. It feels more special,” says Welling.

 

Clients in the lounge area can also take a sneak peek at hotels or destinations using the agency’s two VR headsets. “It’s a bit of a novelty, but clients like it and it sets us apart as an agency. It’s something a bit different,” explains Welling.

The event space

The event space

One year ago, Myriad Travel in Liverpool began hosting events in its previously disused upstairs office. The agency used to host events in venues outside the shop, but owner Tiffany Woodley says that it cost the business more money.

 

“Our events now take place once a month and we have a maximum of 20 people each time,” she adds.

 

“We prepare for all our events in November and send the events schedule out with our clients’ Christmas cards.”

 

Each event will include a talk from a supplier, which Woodley says is handy not just for clients but for staff training too.

 

“The events are relaxed and allow clients to ask questions in an informal environment, and to make friends with other clients,” she adds.

 

The space has been redecorated, and it’s a cosy area complete with an L-shaped sofa and a flat screen TV, which is used for supplier presentations.

 

“We held a Typically Italian event up there recently with antipasti and prosecco. We generally get bookings within a couple of months,” says Woodley.

 

She adds that each event is advertised in the shop window, which helps to entice customers: “People have started bringing friends along to the events, so it’s good for new business too.”

The staff room

The staff room

The Hays Travel team in Weymouth brightened up their back office space a year ago with a wall and a ledge full of pictures, awards and thank-you cards from clients.

 

“I used to work at First Choice and we’d print photos off and pin them to the wall, so the idea came from there,” says store manager Katie Bunting.

 

The area showcases the team’s successes – from awards ceremony wins to team nights out and Christmas party revelry.

 

“I thought we should be celebrating the team and our achievements – we should be proud of them. It’s a way of reminding ourselves of our hard work every time we go to make a coffee, and it’s a bit of a pick-me-up if you’re having a bad day,” says Bunting.

 

The photos are first shared on the company’s Facebook pages and are then printed off for the office wall.

 

The back-office space also includes a kitchen-cum-staffroom. “Our one-to-ones always happen out back,” explains Bunting. “We’ll catch up there away from the shop floor. In the staffroom area, the mindset is different. People open up more.”

The kids’ zone

The kids’ zone

Advantage member Prestbury Travel in Bramhall hoped to appeal to the family market when it opened in May last year, so the back office became a kids’ play area.

 

“The store used to be a hairdresser’s, and the back office was the backwash area. It was an unused space for us previously and we’ve completely redone it,” says branch manager Melanie Rowson.

 

The room has been converted into a fun children’s space, filled with colouring books, a giant map of the world floor puzzle, bean-bags decorated like globes, and a wigwam.

 

“It gives parents a chance to chat to us away from the kids – and the kids love it,” explains Rowson.

 

Having the room has also helped to draw parents in, she adds: “There’s a preschool across the road so we often get parents walking past. We’ve advertised the children’s area in the window, which has also helped.”

 

It also comes in handy when the team is hosting supplier events. “We’re having an event with Intrepid soon, and we’ll use the room for nibbles and fizz, and they can project images on to the walls there,” she says.

 

“We’re also planning a family day for our first year anniversary, so the kids’ room will come in useful then.”

The training room

The training room

Last year, Polka Dot Travel in Wrexham converted an upstairs open office into a staff training area.

 

“We were conscious of using it as something productive within the company,” explains director Helen Johnson.

 

The revamped area is used for in-house training sessions with staff, some of whom come to Wrexham from the other 10 Polka Dot Travel stores.

 

“We’ve been doing training with new starters from the last six months. They’ll spend the day learning about Polka Dot’s values, about customer retention and delivering excellent customer service,” says Johnson.

 

The room is decked out with a large coffee table and chairs, with a beach scene on the wall and a projector used for in-house and supplier training presentations.

 

“We get lots of support from suppliers, so we’re hoping to do training twice a month with staff, to help them with their specialist areas,” adds Johnson. The room will also take on an additional function as a studio.

 

“We’re going to use it for social media videos,” says Johnson.

 

“At the moment, we film a video three or four times a week, in an area downstairs in front of our logo. We’re looking forward to using the upstairs space for the videos soon.”

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