Independent agents find new ways to boost business

Independent travel agents are looking at new ways to boost their businesses and beat the bookings downturn as fears grow of a long recession.

With the economic doom and gloom hitting consumer and corporate budgets, ­increasing numbers of agents are using tactics such as consultation fees, brochure charges and even new ventures such as in-store cafes, to boost cash flow and eliminate time wasters.

Ilfracombe-based Somewhere2travel2 director Diane Denney has started charging £50 consultation fees in the last month.

The fee applies to customers who want to spend more than half an hour with one of the company’s agents. The charge is then taken off the price of the holiday if the customer makes a booking.

Denney said: “I’m very happy with how this is working. We haven’t lost a single booking and it has given us a vote of confidence that people are willing to pay for our service.”

Edwin Doran Travel World, in Twickenham, Surrey, is about to set up a club for regular or high-spending customers. They will receive special offers, incentives and invitations to coffee mornings at the agency.

Retail manager Rosie Doran said: “Agents need to be more innovative now and do everything they can to encourage people to keep travelling. The key is to keep in touch with customers without bombarding them and make sure they know you can add value.”

Departure Lounge director Lynne Pritchard has set up a cafe and bar, with an alcohol licence,at hershop in ­Abergele, Conwy to boost her ­bottom line. Customers can visit the shop for a coffee and snack, without necessarily booking a holiday.

She said: “I wanted to ­diversify so I would not be totally reliant on travel. We’ve been doing so well that I’ve bought the shop next door to expand.”

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