Scottish travel agents ‘worn out’ with workload, says SPAA

Scottish travel agents are “worn out” by the workload of cancellations, amendments and long call wait times – combined with recruitment challenges and rising costs.

The picture of exhaustion comes from a survey of Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) members, released as schools in Scotland break up for summer.

The survey results show the late booking trend continues with more than 66% of bookings for holidays within the next three months and more than 26% of those within six weeks of departure.

Most travel is to Europe, while the US and the Caribbean are the next most popular destinations.

However, the poll found SPAA members face many hours of additional work amid last-minute cancellations, especially as Scottish agents have the added problem of connecting flights over London.

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More than a third of agents report taking more than two hours to get through to some companies – sometimes for minor items such as adding a date of birth, or the name of a new-born infant as automated systems are unable to cope.

Some regularly have had to wait up to six hours get through to airlines, cruise companies and tour operators by phone. Email responses are no better with two thirds experiencing a wait of longer than 48 hours.

The SPAA said the survey paints a picture of an industry which is “collectively exhausted due to the additional workload of rebookings and amendments”.

Mike Tibbert, SPAA president, said Scotland is not experiencing the “chaotic scenes” seen at some English airports but aviation cutbacks and the increased demand for travel are “certainly having an impact” on members.

“It’s important to remember, however that the vast majority of flights are taking off as scheduled and most holidays are taking place without a hitch,” he added.

The problems are compounded by a struggle to recruit staff, with half of Scottish agents finding difficulties in sourcing workers.

A fifth of agencies are working with local schools and colleges to find new trainees.

Tibbert added: “Travel may be on the move again after a tortuous two-year period for Scottish agents, but the survey shows that businesses still face significant challenges.

“Increasing flight and holiday prices are hitting travellers at the same time as the cost of living across the board is impacting on disposable income.

“Agents are faced with the rising business costs of running high street outlets such as energy prices at the same time as they are faced with repaying pandemic loans.

“An earlier survey carried out by the SPAA showed that 30% of member businesses have a bounceback/CIBLS loan of over £100k. Added to the additional workload of rebooking and amending trips, our members are worn out.”

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