Jet2holidays bookings through agents have risen during the Covid crisis to around a third of the operator’s total business, and account for nearly 50% of bookings for winter 2021/22.
“The great thing is that the strength of the travel agent has not diminished throughout this whole pandemic,” Jet2holidays head of trade sales Alan Cross tells TTG on the eve of the airline and operator announcing its new Bristol base, and with his team preparing to court a further 300 independent agents in the Bristol airport catchment.
Jet2 believes the region, which comprises a swathe of the West Country and south Wales, within 45 minutes to an hour of Bristol, unlocks another seven million potential customers – and Cross wants agents to be ready to service them.
“Our share of business each week is 30-33% through the trade,” says Cross. “That’s stayed tremendously strong, and shows the potential. Customers want the reassurance and confidence of booking through an independent agent.
"So I’d say this is one of the best times [for agents] to get customers in, as and when they’re ready to book. We’ve seen agents take a kicking, as the whole industry has.
"But they’re hugely resilient. I’ve been in this industry 42 years – the ones that come out fighting, who have run their businesses as sound, secure, responsible concerns over the years, will get through this.”
Cross says Jet2’s trade team will be standing by, ready to resume its joint marketing efforts with the trade, as and when different areas of the UK emerge from lockdown and tighter tiered restrictions.
“The demand is there,” he says. “There are people who want to book, especially for next year.
“It’s going to be a more gradual peaks, but our sales through agents for winter 2021/22 are already incredibly high, with agents accounting for over 45% of that business. The trade has always been better selling further out, but this is exceptional.
“Business through the trade has been as low as 25%. Last year, before lockdown, it sat at 27-28%, so it has accelerated. And agents are holding on to customers as a result. There are customers out there who have never booked with a travel agent before, but want reassurance, guidance and professionalism.”
Cross reveals plans for the Bristol launch include relocating Stansted and south east sales executive Bryony Boulter to Gloucester. His team will also roll out the operator’s virtual holiday show initiative in December and into 2021, with agents partnering with Jet2 to host an event for their clients – and showcase an exclusive offer.
He also confirms Jet2’s TV and radio advertising will continue to feature a call-out for independent agents, and the operator will carry on promoting a travel agent finder tool on its direct-sell website.
Cross adds Jet2’s decision to launch a new base now is testament to its responsible business ethos.
“We have the ability to expand while others are contracting, and that expansion takes us to new parts of the country,” he says.
“This is us planning for the next year, for the next two years, to be a better business. Have we been hit? Yes, every business has. But you work with the hand you’re dealt, and we’re making the most of every opportunity.
“I hate hearing companies talk about going into hibernation, sitting tight, or doing nothing, as it guarantees nothing is going to happen. And we don’t intend to be one of those.”