‘There’s no going back to the old norm,’ Aito delegates warned

Travel agents and tour operators need to change the way they work as there will be “no going back to the old norm”.

That was the message from industry veteran Richard Carrick at The Specialist Travel Association (Ait0) 2021 conference.

A survey of the conference’s delegates on November 15 showed of the 34 operators attending, 55% were only open Monday to Friday; 27% were open from Monday to Saturday; while 18% did not specify. Just three operators offered video calls on Facebook or Zoom.

In a further survey on response times, carried out by Direct Call Centres, 19 of 41 operator and agent delegates answered the phone in less than ten seconds with a human voice; three answered within three seconds, and one, McKinlay Kidd, answered in two seconds. Three companies did not answer at all, one line was discontinued and one permanently engaged.

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“There are businesses out there using mobile-based apps and social media. These people occupy a parallel universe. We are not reflecting what is happening and what is coming out of the pandemic,” said Carrick, who runs Richard Carrick Consulting and has a number of non-executive positions in the industry.

He told Aito companies to use apps and video calls to adapt to the “massive change” in consumer behaviour during the Covid pandemic.

“Apps are becoming a vital part of who we are and how we should be doing business,” said Carrick, who said about 30% of retail sales across the board were now online.

He added video calls improved the chance of converting a sale by as much as 25%.

“Companies are paying lip-service to change but not applying any common sense,” he said. “The new normal will not be the old normal.

“If you want to appeal to investors they will be looking at your scope for growth. I am asking you to consider spending some of your money in a different way. Think about recruitment and bringing people in who have these skills.”

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