People prove irreplaceable in any crisis, says Barrhead Travel president, Jacqueline Dobson

This time of year always prompts reflection while we take stock and prepare for a busy January. Our conferences are one of the best ways to bring colleagues and industry partners together to share feedback, exchange experiences and look forward to the year ahead.

There has been a recurring theme in conversations I’ve had at events and conferences over the past few weeks. From industry leaders to our branch managers and sales consultants, the comments that have arisen time and again revolve around the resilience and unity of the travel trade.

During what has been one of the most turbulent times for the travel industry in years, some heroes have risen from the shadows to help those most in need. The collapse of Super Break and Thomas Cook was sad, but when you look at the determination and stamina of how those affected ploughed on, and how businesses up and down the country opened their doors to affected employees, it is poignantly uplifting.

Pulling together

It sometimes takes times like this to remember how unique our industry is, with people at all levels – from apprentices to chief executives – pulling together.

I am immensely proud of my team this year, many voluntarily working long shifts and extra days or sacrificing their annual leave. However, what has struck me the most during this unprecedented crisis, is the need for multi-skilled employees.

At Barrhead Travel, we have the benefit of a multi-skilled workforce. We have always prized continual development and progression among our people; I believe it is one of the reasons that has allowed our business to flourish over the years. Many of our employees, myself included, have worked their way up through the business and have experience in a variety of departments.

We have scores of sales support employees across admin, marketing, business development and HR who started their Barrhead Travel careers in sales and customer service roles. We haven’t deliberately set out to multi-skill employees but have cultivated a work culture where opportunities are flexible and inter-departmental transfers are seen as a help, rather than a hindrance.

Flexibility is invaluable

Sales support teams that can turn their hand to our booking systems, can reel off supplier and airport codes in their sleep and quickly identify new alternative holiday options, have been invaluable.

Having ready-made support during the aftermath of Thomas Cook’s collapse was intrinsic to our business. It demonstrated how fortunate we are to have the option of pulling resources from across the business to handle the volumes of bookings that were affected, while still being able to run day-to-day operations. Barrhead Travel’s size allows us some flexibility, but scale is relative, and our real success lays within the willingness of our people.

As an industry, we collectively faced another crisis armed with the best and latest social media and digital communication platforms. However, there’s only one thing that is irreplaceable and will continue to pull us through industry crises in years to come – and that is our people.