I woke up on 1 February – ding ding, round two. I was feeling slightly jaded.
Yes, the red wine had been opened the evening before. Like many of you I’m sure, the shop door had barely been locked before the celebrations marking a great January started – or just a toast thanking our lucky stars we’d made it to the end of what always feels like the longest month of the year.
We’ve been in this game long enough to know the industry is forever changing. Each year seems tougher and tougher – although that might just be my age.
Of course, many things that affect us are out of our control, but are we taking charge of the things we can control?
We can’t change the enquiry we all dread: “I can go any time, anywhere and I have no budget.”
We can’t change customers wanting – as we say in Yorkshire “summat for nowt”, and we certainly can’t stop agents voicing their opinions on price parity. Which takes me nicely on to…
Over the past few years it’s felt that price parity has been one of the burning issues for the travel industry.
It’s the topic that can get everyone fired up in an instant and the subject that has the sector divided.
But while the focus is often on hanging these operators out to dry, are we missing the reality of what’s happening on our doorstep?
This January more than any before, I have experienced travel agencies undercutting each other, homeworkers beating the internet prices and travel companies offering zero deposits – to me this is as bad as a tour operator not having price parity.
Are we discounting for the sake of discounting? Are we buying bookings rather than using our expertise? More importantly, are we undervaluing ourselves as travel agents?
We certainly do not want to return to the point we were at years ago when some agents kept discounting to make a sale even if they only just broke even.
It makes me wonder how confident those agencies are in the service they provide, and more frighteningly, how loyal – or disloyal – their customers must be to them.
There are so many amazing travel agents working on the high street, from home or in call centres, who proudly fly the industry flag.
These agents give the service they themselves would expect to receive, and have extremely successful businesses without having to discount more than they should.
That’s because they are giving that extra something that the customer can’t get anywhere else.
So I can’t understand the logic of those agents who undercut the agency down the road. It would bring more longevity and stability to their businesses if they invested in their team’s expertise.
The money saved from avoiding discounting could pay for one of the team to go on a fam trip or be invested in destination training for their staff.
Or why not splash out on customer service training, and then let the customer decide where they want to book?