Jacqueline Dobson, president, Barrhead Travel.

It’s a question we all ask ourselves: how do I keep my clients excited and engaged in my product? Customer service is paramount to retention, and offering good value ensures you remain buoyant in a competitive market. But there’s one more ingredient which can help make or break your success.

The glue that binds traditional travel agencies like Barrhead Travel together is our partners. Some of us may refer to them as suppliers, contractors or operators – all perfectly accurate, but not necessarily reflective of the true relationship we have together.

The trade partnerships that we have formed over the years are invaluable to our business. And it is that word – partnership – that really describes the working relationship we have with our industry peers.

Formidable combination

Working hand in hand with our valued partners enables us to demonstrate differentiation in the market. Our customers value not only our objective recommendations but also how dexterously we can conjure up bespoke itineraries or present exclusive or unusual offers within a matter of minutes.

The skill and knowledge of our travel consultants, coupled with the support of our travel partners, makes for a formidable combination of expertise, unforgettable experiences and value.

Trust, faith and transparency are key to any successful relationship in business. Just like our customers have faith and trust in us to make recommendations, our partners trust us implicitly with their brand. We become custodians of their product as we endorse and recommend to our clients.

We recently transformed a space inside our Glasgow superstore into a Universal Orlando Resort Booking Lounge. It is the only branded booking lounge of its kind in the UK and, visually, it is really impressive. From virtual reality headsets to a branded selfie area for that “just booked” picture, the lounge really captures the essence of excitement felt in the parks. It also captures the essence of our unique partnership with Universal Orlando Resort thanks to the joint branding, employee engagement of the product and the extraordinary booking experience that can be enjoyed.

Valued partnerships

As an industry, the partnerships we create are a tight bond. I was starkly reminded of this when I heard the very sad news that our long-standing partner Super Break had gone into administration. A well-loved brand among our team, customers and the wider industry, their collapse serves as a reminder of how much we value our industry partners.

We recently followed suit with our American colleagues from Travel Leaders Group, who helped drive change within the US industry by amending the term ‘travel agent’ to ‘travel advisor’. It is a fitting title to acknowledge that our skill set and expertise extends beyond simply facilitating a holiday.

I believe the same principle should be applied when acknowledging our travel ‘suppliers’. With such close working relationships, perhaps the industry as a whole should consider making the term redundant and instead describe our peers as ‘partners’ to reflect the spirit of the relationship.