The Isle of Wight may be just a stone’s throw from the English coast, but like all stretches of water, the Solent, which separates the two, can be troublesome for the unwary traveller.
Fog and rough weather can brew up at a moment’s notice, something Regent Travel manager Russell Macgregor has to remind customers who live on the island when booking an overseas break.
“If it is foggy or rough you can’t get off the island as the ferries won’t run,” he said. Those people who want to cross the Solent are not only hostages to the weather; they must also pay for the ferry, which can cost as much as £100 for a family of four and a car during the peak season.
Macgregor said: “The main disadvantage to working on the Isle of Wight is obviously the stretch of water. It is expensive to get across and adds to the cost of the holiday. It can also affect the timing of the flight a customer chooses. “If someone has an early flight we’ll advise them to go the previous day and stay overnight at the airport. If the first flight is a lot cheaper, it can be worth their while.”
Being in such a popular holiday destination doesn’t bother Macgregor as he has won business from holidaymakers who visit the island only to become so upset with the weather that they book a last-minute overseas holiday with him. Macgregor was tempted into travel following a work experience placement in an agency, and joined Regent Travel in 2000.
The agency, which has six staff, was bought by Western Oriental in 2004, and is a member of the Advantage Travel Centre consortium, largely because of the deals struck with operators.
Although Bournemouth and Southampton airports are easily accessible, Macgregor said Gatwick was still the most popular airport for customers as it is only a 90-minute train journey and offers the widest selection of flights.
Customers come from all walks of life and all age groups. Even young travellers recognise the internet isn’t the be all and end all of travel. “We’ve got a bit of experience among our staff and we’ve got systems that allow us to shop around for a better deal than the client can find for themselves,” he said.
Macgregor added that being part of a local and tight-knit community has proved to be a positive way for the agency to find new business. “We like to get out and about, speak to the communities and offer special deals,” he said.
“We’ve also done a lot of work with local schools; not going on holiday during term time is a big issue. Instead, we offer special deals during the holiday time, which is going down well,” Macgregor said.