Something that has struck me this year from all those conversations about "getting booked in to see my hairdresser" after the various national and local lockdowns is the loyalty people show their hairdresser versus that they show their travel agent.
We usually go back to the same person or salon every time; we know them by name, and we trust them to do a good job. It is a personal relationship.
A haircut is also a time when we talk openly about where we are going on holiday – but when it comes to actually booking a holiday, why do many people not have the same personal relationship with a travel agent?
Only 50% of respondents to a poll I conducted earlier this year said they book their holiday with the same agent each time; 33% said they book online (direct), while 17% said they book their own holidays.
So why are things so different when it comes to booking travel? The internet may have a part to play, but are you getting the expert service and the best experience by doing this?
The loyalty and personal relationship we share with our hairdresser align with the benefits of having your own personal travel expert. People go to experts to ensure they get what they set out to buy.
Your hairdresser is the expert. They are knowledgeable in up-to-date trends and styles. A travel expert is no different. And it’s important agents recognise and communicate this.
When it comes to travel, you are the expert. You are knowledgeable about the industry, from experience gained from travel and training. Combined with your knowledge of your clients, you can make suitable recommendations – where to go, when to go, and which hotels and experiences will suit them.
We expect our hairdresser to be reliable and ensure we get the perfect style every time. When you book a holiday, people trust their travel expert to get the perfect holiday every time too.
We avoid terrible haircuts by choosing someone with whom we know we are in safe hands, paying upwards of £20 for the service.
On holidays, we spend £100s, £1,000s, even tens of thousands, so it is important people are able to book with someone they trust, who will ensure their money is safe and that their holiday is financially protected.
The pandemic hit holidaymakers hard, forcing them to navigate flight cancellations, border closures and new entry requirements. Unlike a booking engine, a travel expert can – and will – be in touch while they are away to keep them informed.
Independent agents are just a call away. Unfortunately, throughout the pandemic, some people have not been able to speak to a human being when they needed them most.
Moreover, they are not restricted to certain hotels, brands or contracts. They match preferences, offer a multitude of choice, and build tailored experiences that are unique – not off the shelf.
Personal service is unique to you. It is one-to-one, and consistent. Your hairdresser gets to know you personally and is familiar with your requirements, and so do travel experts to create the right holiday experience.
When booking online, organising a holiday yourself, or speaking to a variety of different agents, you do not receive that same personal touch.
A computer, reliant on algorithms, cannot ask questions, make recommendations, or give advice that is specifically tailored for you. Or provide contact with local agents in your holiday destination, ensuring the service is continued abroad.
So, when you’re next in the hairdresser discussing your plans to get away, relaxed and comfortable in the salon chair, give some thought to the personal service and experience you can offer.
And perhaps ask them about their next holiday instead of talking about your own!
Gemma Harvey is a Travel Counsellor based in Berkshire.