While travel is united in its pursuit of recovery in the face of the government’s traffic light system, it’s no secret agents have green and red lists of their own when it comes to the suppliers they will work with in future.
Trust and respect is hard won, and easily lost, a point not lost on Si Morris-Green, who joined Classic Collection and Classic Package Holidays as the brands’ director of agency sales and marketing last November.
“We’ve made a lot of friends over the past six to eight months,” he tells TTG’s deputy news editor James Chapple.
Since the start of the year, the Classic brands have ranked among the suppliers most supportive of the trade according to TTG’s Travel Agent Tracker.
“It’s been a steep learning curve for the whole industry,” says Morris-Green. “For me, it’s been a great journey. It’s given us time to reflect and ensure agents remain at the forefront of our thinking. Our team have been active and visible.”
Classic has held more than 40 agent webinars, and hosted live cook-alongs for agents and their children as well as a virtual safari. Morris-Green sees this as part of a future hybrid agency sales model.
His team resumed in-store visits in April after an agent poll returned an almost unanimous “yes please”.
“We’re trying to be creative with these too,” says Morris-Green. “We’ve done walks in the park in Scotland, as well as calls, Zooms and webinars, and we’ve got roadshows booked for September and October.
"We’ll continue to connect with agents how they want to connect with us.”
Classic’s agency sales operation team comprises strategic business development manager Gemma Lazenby, homeworker business development manager Ali Bull, and Phil Shipman, formerly of Club Med and G Touring, who joined the team this month to look after consortia partners.
Elsewhere Jo Moran leads a new trade support team, building on Classic’s “partnership promise”, while trade partnership sales manager Natalie Adams now heads a team of six regional sales managers (RSMs), including Jorge Quibell and Martin Page.
“The combination of new and existing RSMs is really powerful,” says Morris-Green. “It’s given us a chance to restructure our regions and promote people into new roles. We have to be relevant to all agents; nothing can be one-size-fits-all any more.”
Classic will host six educationals later this year to green list destinations, as well as a series of travel agent panels bringing senior management face-to-face with agents.
“I’ve been in the industry 18 years and there’s never been a more important time to connect with agents,” says Morris-Green. “Travel will be exciting again, but we have to bring clients and agents along with us.”
So far, Morris-Green and his team appear to be succeeding. “We’ve got a good order book for this year and 2022 has also been really strong.
“Are people going to skip this year? I don’t know, I think some might save themselves for a bigger holiday next year. People are starting to come with quotes for 2023, which is incredible.”
Before we part, I ask Morris-Green for a thought on agents’ loyalty to Classic; he hails the tireless work of the operator’s customer care team.
“Our Classic commitment also set out our policies really clearly, it made sure we had transparency,” he says.
“For instance, refunding customers in cash rather than refund credit notes. We believe these were the right things to do by customers and agents – they know where they are with us.”