Barrhead Travel boss Jacqueline Dobson believes more and more consumers are turning to businesses they trust as a result of the coronavirus crisis, such as their local high street travel agent.
Dobson said with the travel sector slowly seeking to emerge from the initial effects of the pandemic, agents were uniquely placed to offer reassurance on any imminent or longer-term travel plans.
Scottish independent Barrhead has now reopened 25 of its branded stores across the UK, around half, as part of a "phased approach" to restoring operations on the high street.
The business reopened its first stores in early July, and is working on several locations a week to ensure each branch undergoes a full risk assessment to ensure it can be reopened safely.
This includes equipping staff with any vital PPE and taking protective measures such as installing plexiglass dividers between staff and clients. Social distancing will also be strictly enforced.
Barrhead is also offering face-to-face consultations on an appointment basis, as well as a virtual appointment service. In-store and virtual appointments are backed up by phone and online support.
Meanwhile, staff working at branches that still remain closed are serving customers remotely. The next phase of its reopening plan is due to start in the coming weeks, with central sales support teams continuing to work from home.
Dobson, Barrhead president, said the response to its branded stores reopening "demonstrated clear demand for expert advice within local communities".
“The reception each of our stores has received from their local community and customers has been wonderful," said Dobson. "People are delighted to see their local high streets come alive again and are keen to support them.
With so much uncertainty about imminent travel, prospective holidaymakers are turning to businesses they trust and, in many cases, that’s their local high street travel agent.
“The situation is changing all the time, and it’s important we continue to monitor what is happening around the UK. For example, the local lockdown in Aberdeen last week prompted us to take the decision to temporarily close the store.
"Thanks to being so used to working remotely, it was an easy transition to get our Aberdeen team set-up again from home so we can continue supporting our Aberdeen customers. This flexibility and ability to quickly react is an important part of our reopening strategy."
Dobson branded Westminster’s decision to revoke Spain’s travel corridor, one that was mirror unilaterally by all four home nations, "disappointing for summer business", but said Barrhead’s teams were working hard to get customers rebooked for later in the year, or into 2021.
"Summer 2021 is by far the most popular booking period for us right now, with many of our customers keen to secure next year’s getaway as early as possible," said Dobson, with Barrhead’s booking trends reflecting those recorded by TTG’s Travel Agent Tracker.
Barrhead’s top-selling destinations for 2021 include Orlando, Tenerife, Turkey and Canada, while island escapes to the Maldives and Mauritius have also proved popular.
Dobson added that while the UK’s quarantine policy had dampened customer confidence for late summer getaways, many holidaymakers were still hopeful of travelling later this year.
“There’s definitely appetite for winter 2020," said Dobson. "We hope supply will be able to match demand for the likes of the Canaries if that market remains buoyant.
"We also recently launched a new UK breaks programme, which has been extremely popular for the months of August and September. We expect to see continued high demand for holidays at home for the duration of 2020 and into 2021."