APT’s team of three business development managers (BDMs) will soon be back on the road, visiting travel agents in person to promote the brand’s escorted tours and cruises, after the hiatus of the pandemic.
Paul Melinis, UK and Europe managing director, said the restrictions of the Covid crisis had been “very difficult” for the BDMs but the team is keen to return to face-to-face meetings in agencies.
He told a Travel Weekly webcast that he started his career in travel as a BDM and knows it can be “the most fun role”.
“It’s great seeing people…seeing travel agents every day,” he said.
“They’ve got friends, they build relationships – and it’s been taken away from them. It has been very, very difficult.
“But the good thing is, we’ve accommodated them, we’ve changed their skill set so they’re skilled up to other areas as well.
“They’re all back working with us now [and] we’ll have them out on the road very, very shortly, as soon as it’s viable.
“They will do virtual meetings, or they will come and see anybody.”
Also, APT’s new Agent Club platform can provide agents with marketing and training materials.
As well as helping train BDMs to learn other skills, the operator has taken on new staff in its reservations centre, introduced flexible working practices and launched a graduate scheme.
The first graduate on the scheme joined on January 4.
The staff developments came about because the operator had more time to review procedures during the pandemic as travel was shut down.
“We had time as a business to really take a helicopter view and have a look at how we can improve things,” he told the webcast.
“The results have been very, very good.”
He said bookings have improved since the UK government eased its testing requirements so the operator is able to cater for pent-up demand from clients – rather than deal with cancellations and rearranging holidays.
“It’s great for our salespeople who are selling holidays to clients who are desperate to travel. You can hear it in their voice,” he said.
“The clients are not cancelling, they’re saying ‘you can do anything, you can keep our money, we want to go on holiday’, which shows that demand is there.”
He said customer policies introduced in response to the pandemic – such as flexible cancellations, low deposits and Covid insurance – will continue.
“Every operator has followed suit, because it’s a necessity…and it is something that clients will look for now,” he said.
“If you haven’t got it, you won’t get that booking.”
However, the flexibility is difficult to manage as clients can postpone their trips more easily.
“It is very hard, as business leaders, to forecast and budget, but we’ll do our very best, we’re used to it now,” he added.
“We’ve had two years of it. And I think it’s going to become the norm.”