TTG special projects editor Madeleine Barber and Sarah Ashmore, key account manager at Attraction World, took a virtual trip around Wales to find out how some of the country’s best travel agencies are enduring the pandemic
About them: Based in the village of Gresford since 1964, this second generation travel agency is headed up by brother and sister Ann Anglesea and Howard Davies. Their team of seven have hundreds of years of experience working in travel between them, with the US and Canada making up 40% of destination bookings and cruise 40% of all bookings. The agency runs a tailor-made arm named Talk Travel and Perfect Cruises brand.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Despite having to furlough most team members and make four redundancies, Delmar World adapted quickly to working from home, hosting Zoom appointments with clients, making the most of new online learning opportunities and implementing innovative marketing campaigns in local media.
Highlight: Hearing about Delmar World’s role in the Gresford community, from volunteering for the NHS and supporting a 10-year-old client diagnosed with cancer to decorating the local church’s Christmas tree and contributing to the village’s Scarecrow Trail challenge.
Karen shows Madeleine and Sarah gifts given to and received from La Vida Travel customers
About them: There’s no holiday this 12-strong team in Newport doesn’t sell. From short breaks in the UK to five-star resorts in far-flung destinations, the majority of La Vida Travel’s business comes from its followers on Facebook, which amount to more than 17,000. Constantly looking for the next challenge, managing director Karen Marin Reyes expanded into a Cardiff location last summer and has recently unveiled a new lounge to serve luxury clients and large groups.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: La Vida managed to maintain all staff positions throughout 2020, while using destinations featured on television to drive bookings, planning a team Christmas party in Tenerife, organising charity raffles and marketing in new ways during lockdown such as distributing postcards with local restaurant takeaway deliveries.
Highlight: Hearing about the My First Passport covers the agency sent with a bottle of prosecco to more than 35 clients who have welcomed babies during the pandemic.
Miles and Sarah from Miles Morgan Travel's Chepstow branch joined Madeleine and Sarah on Zoom
About them: Miles Morgan’s team of four in the eight-year-old Chepstow branch have more than 100 years of experience working in travel under their belt. The agency’s customers are mostly retired and affluent, with sales covering all sectors but cruise, escorted touring and bespoke holidays proving most popular.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Taking up the government’s flexi-furlough scheme, the agency was able to avoid redundancies and retain 76% of 2020 bookings. Led by Sarah Jones, team members took to Zoom to meet with clients and launched a Facebook page as an additional platform to connect with customers. The agency also did great things for client reassurance, filming and distributing videos communicating travel updates and launching a Book With Confidence logo.
Highlight: Hearing about the forward-thinking survey sent to the agency’s team members and clients to ascertain how and when people would feel comfortable with the store reopening – the results were then used to create new health and safety protocols.
Madeleine and Sarah met with Mark, Anna and Nicola from Ocky White Travel
About them: Opened in 1963 by the grandfather of current owner and director Mark White, Ocky White Travel is well established in the town of Haverfordwest. The agency sells higher-end holidays which are mainly tailor-made, long-haul and touring, although the cruise market is developing.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: Reduced from six to three, the Ocky White team have worked tirelessly to repatriate clients in far-flung destinations and handle rebookings, rewarding themselves with Friday night Zoom drinks and quizzes as well as keeping active with Joe Wick’s online workouts. The agency collaborated with a local business to host a Facebook Live in an attempt to target new customers and tripled their time spent on product training.
Highlight: Hearing how a member of the team donned a captain’s hat and shoulder boards, and positioned themselves in front of a porthole window, to put a smile on a despairing cruise client’s face during a video call discussing a delayed voyage.
Lisa and Kate from The Travel House met with Madeleine and Sarah
About them: Currently there are just two team members running The Travel House’s Morriston branch, which has been selling holidays since 2002. The duo, Lisa Necrews and Julia Dutton, have collectively worked in the agency for 40 years selling all types of holiday all around the world to their customers, of which 80% are repeat.
How they navigated the Covid-19 crisis: The Travel House has pooled all enquiries, bookings and staff from its multiple branches to operate as one shop during the pandemic. The group has launched digital advertising billboards around the town, with all offers for next summer and beyond, as well as a new website and a social media giveaway of a £2,000 The Travel House gift card.
Highlight: Hearing about the staff fancy dress competition and Travel House Has Got Talent challenge, where agents showcased everything from singing and dancing to juggling.
Attraction World's key account manager Sarah Ashmore answers five key questions about the company's 2021 plans.