Wendy Wu Tours’ global sales chief John Warr has said he believes operators "have a responsibility" to give the market confidence".
Speaking at the launch of the operator’s new 2021/22 Japan brochure in New Malden on Thursday (13 August), Warr said it was up to the industry to protect itself at its darkest hour.
Warr revealed the Wendy Wu team had held more than 450 trade and consumer webinars during lockdown, including some from reps and guides in-destination.
The operator was also among the first to get its BDMs back out on the road, and now has four out there covering much of the country.
"People are looking for confidence," said Warr. "So I think we have a responsibility to give the market some confidence, to talk it up – because if we don’t, who’s going to do it?"
Warr said he had been delighted with the response to the operator’s webinar programme, with the business running up to three a day – including several live from Japan, Vietnam and India.
"Where agents have engaged with us, where they have a database of customers, we’ve done webinars on behalf of them just for their customers," said Warr.
"We’ll do whatever we can really to try to drive this. Our key message is that where an agent feels they got even just two or three customers that want to have a one-to-one, we will do that for them to support them."
Joe Lavers, Wendy Wu senior business development manager, said the reception from agents had been "amazing". "In fact, I’d say it’s been over and above where we would normally be," he said.
"People are genuinely pleased to see you, they want to know what’s going on in your business – and they’re really keen to know what other agents are doing."
Lavers revealed that besides offering £99pp deposits, Wendy Wu Tours had pushed balance due dates back to six weeks before departure, and was allowing clients a free date amendment if they need it as part of the operator’s efforts to rebuild confidence.
"What I’m saying to agents is there has never been a better time to book a Wendy Wu tour for 2021 because of everything we’ve put in place to put confidence back into people to actually book," Lavers added.
Warr said he believed Wendy Wu Tours’ proactivity was paying dividends, in particular, with homeworkers. Lavers added that as many homeworkers were already so used to promoting remotely, their efforts had not fallen away in the same way some high street agents’ had.
"They’ve therefore possibly been a little more proactive than some of the high street agents who are just starting to come back now," he said.
Warr said the operator recognised and understood the challenges facing the trade, and acknowledged there was unlikely to be normality "for a while".
Wendy Wu Tours has rebooked 60% of customers onto 2021 departures, which Warr revealed had allowed the business to carry "a good amount of revenue" into 2021. Japan, meanwhile, has constituted around 50%-55% of everything the operator has sold since April.
"These kind of events are about sending a message to the industry that says: ’Be out there, be proactive, reach out’," Warr added. "If you throw the net, you’re going to catch something. If you don’t, you’re not going to catch anything."