The Personal Travel Agents At Co-operative Travel is to hold its eighth annual conference virtually this month.

The theme of the three-day event, which will bring together more than 140 homeworkers from September 15 to 17, is ‘Revive’ in a bid to help agents bounce back in the current climate.

The focus will be looking at ways agents in the homeworking division of Midcounties Co-operative can revive their holiday enquiries, marketing, sales and earnings, and importantly, themselves, after the most challenging six months the industry has ever faced.

Sheena Whittle, head of The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, which has more than 160 homeworking agents in total, said: “2020 has seen many a challenge thrown our way and, after the disruption to the travel industry and the changes we have all had to face these past six months, we feel it’s time to hit the restart button and explore what travel will look like in the weeks and months ahead and how our Personal Travel Agents can not only revive their businesses but thrive.

“We are in the fortunate and strong position of being part of the wider Midcounties Co-operative and we are excited about helping our agents to utilise the consumer awareness and confidence in the Co-op brand to increase their market share and make the absolute best of the coming months.”

Virtual workshops, which will be repeated across the three days so that agents can attend them all, will include Revive You and Your Business, which will look at what PTAs can do to help themselves and their business to thrive in the current market, and Marketing Bounce Back to help agents be ‘loud and proud’ about what they are doing in their businesses. A further workshop, Unleashing the Power of Teams, will train homeworkers to maximise the use of Microsoft Teams to arrange video appointments with customers.

There will also be sessions on Co-operative Holidays, the group’s in-house supplier, how to book in the ‘new normal’ and ‘Back to Basics with Atol’.

The annual conference is normally held in an overseas resort and it is hoped it will return to that format for 2021. Last year’s event was in Paphos, Cyprus.

Whittle added: “We’ll miss the physical interaction, of course, but everyone is excited and eager to share the experiences and learnings of the last six months and to make plans together to navigate our way through the coming months. That said, you can’t beat face to face contact and we’re already looking forward to a return to the traditional conference format for 2021.”

The conference announcement came as the PTAs announced it had enjoyed a ‘bumper week’ of late bookings in August.

The homeworking division reported a 56% increase in new holiday bookings for the week commencing August 24 on the previous week. The total value of bookings that week topped £500,000.

The most popular departure month for new bookings was this month, September 2020, which made up 26% of sales, followed by October, at 13%, while May 2021 departures accounted for 13% and July 2021 for 10%.

For September and October, Turkey was the most popular destination, taking 34% of bookings, followed by Greece (31%), and the Algarve (16%).

Whittle said the cooler UK autumn weather could be driving the spike in late overseas breaks.