So here we are at the beginning of another year of that white-knuckle ride we call owning a travel agency. It’s a case of sit back and scream if you want to go faster, or in my case, close your eyes and hope for the best.
Peaks is a bit like Christmas – it happens every year but always comes as a surprise. You just never know what’s going to be in that cracker.
Throwing open the doors in good cheer on January 2, all the planning and preparation you’ve done while eating mince pies is about to go live.
Will the marketing campaigns I’ve had many a restless night over work? Will it be long before I hear my favourite sounds… the ringing of phones, the padding of footsteps, the tapping of keyboards and the ripping of PDQ receipts?
We all know the pressure is on during peaks. For everyone working in travel – from homeworkers to the high street, from tour operators to hoteliers – these next three months play a critical part in determining whether we have a good year or a great year.
The media play a fantastic role in heightening our angst, predicting “Sunshine Saturdays” where customers queue out of our doors and “Blue Mondays”, where customers will be sitting at our desks in tears, begging us to press the confirm button.
This year in Idle Travel, once we’d finished gawping at the door, checked for the fifth time that it wasn’t super-glued shut, and accepted that the phones must have been working because we’d got through to our friends in other travel agencies to suss out how busy they were… I concluded – profoundly – that no year is ever the same.
I can say that, for Idle Travel, this January has been completely different to any I’ve experienced in more than 30 years of business. The rush didn’t start at the beginning of the month, but half way through, only to fizzle out again at the end.
That said, the people who came in were booking – the conversions were great – my team have kept motivated and targets were beaten. And speaking to other Yorkshire travel agents, many of them saw the same pattern, and I’m sure it’s been the same for many tour operators and hoteliers.
In travel, we never know what’s going to happen, and we must remember that’s what makes us love this industry.
We have highs and we have lows, and who would have thought we would all have become politicians overnight? More and more customers have been asking about Brexit, and I feel with the help of Abta we absolutely have had the information we’ve needed to counteract the scaremongering taking place.
As we draw closer to March 29, I’m sure the negative headlines will only grow, and I wonder if it will start to have an effect on bookings. But for now, the only headline I would like to see is “February is the new January”.
Tony Mann is director of Idle Travel