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Agent Diary: ‘Strong demand and a new team make me feel positive’

My head’s in a spin with all the continuing challenges but I feel positive, says Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson

My head is spinning at the moment and there are many possible reasons why. I’m not sure if my head is in a whirl since a recent car accident or if it’s down to work-related challenges – both good and bad.

On one hand, like many agents, we’ve been inundated with calls from customers irate over cancelled flights and disrupted holiday plans beyond our control.

We’ve also had to deal with those worried about future trips, and whether these cancellations are likely to continue and impact holidays they’ve been planning and looking forward to for a long time.

I still have a belief that the only way is up and a sense that everything will fall into place eventually

On the other hand, we’re also being kept busy in a positive way, with a new influx of enquiries for future travel, showing that demand is still strong despite all the challenges including rising living costs.

I still have a belief that the only way is up and a sense that everything will fall into place eventually, but it would be appreciated if someone could please give me a date for that.

What is absolutely certain is that agents need to have all eyes on the ball in the current game – and man, do you need to love travel!

Team building

For what feels like a very long time, we have had to get all the work done and play that game without full teams, but I’m delighted to say I am now back up to full strength.

Retaining job skills and being able to succeed in business all boils down to the strength of your team, and after the pandemic mine has a different look to it. I have employed staff who had not worked in travel before but have years of experience of retail and customer service.

Retaining job skills and being able to succeed in business all boils down to the strength of your team

They’ve been a brilliant choice, and with other staff returning and acting as mentors for those new to the industry, it feels like a new way of looking to the future of travel.

To all the operators reading this, please don’t forget to include newcomers at events, educationals and training. They are keen and eager to sell.

Keeping up pressure

While things are certainly improving, we still need to make sure the government doesn’t forget us.

In Northern Ireland, we are still fighting for the retrospective funding we asked for prior to another crumbling of our Executive. It may seem a foolish or pointless thing to be doing now, but I really believe you should fight for what is right.

For two years, we have battled to save our businesses, retain revenue and protect skilled staff, and we still have great cause to raise those issues and put pressure on the government to recognise outbound tourism in future planning.

A huge thanks goes to Julia from Advantage who has specifically contributed to providing a voice for us in Northern Ireland

We have no specific representation within UK government and now is the time to keep pushing for that.

Let’s not give up just because the word Covid is starting to fade. There are now concerns over monkeypox and we all know more issues like this will affect us time and time again, so let’s keep our voices heard.

A huge thanks goes to Julia (Lo  Bue‑Said) from Advantage who has specifically contributed to providing a voice for us in Northern Ireland.

Challenges will continue, but with my full team in place and demand strong, I feel positive. Onwards and upwards!


Wonder of the Seas

A real wonder

Just before someone decided to drive into the back of my stopped car, I had not long returned from Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas – what a ship! Hats off to Royal on more fantastic innovation; with every ship it builds, it tweaks and advances.

It was great to reunite, feel ‘normal’ again and reassure ourselves that cruising is fully back on the agenda

And I have to say it has done ‘wonders’ with the buffet dining, which was a real treat, from layout to presentation and taste. I could find myself eating there a lot more often than I normally would. It was great to reunite, feel ‘normal’ again and reassure ourselves that cruising is fully back on the agenda. Our forward bookings are proving that but nothing beats finding out first‑hand.

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