Summer holidays are a challenge. “Don’t panic Mr and Mrs Mainwaring,” is the phrase that seems to be reverberating around my office at the moment.
Reassuring customers who fear their long-awaited holiday might be cancelled due to strikes is something you have to get used to in the travel industry.
And now we have the added threat of company failures. When an operator goes under, all hell breaks loose, as demonstrated by the collapse of Goldtrail Holidays last month.
Like many others, I worked 18-hour days assisting customers by rearranging bookings, flights and hotels. It’s not pleasant, but just part of the job.
However, it was a different story following the collapse of Kiss Flights last week – not one of my customers was affected. In fact, the initial response has been an increase in business as some of the 60,000 people let down have come screaming (literally) for help. This is thanks to what we at Future Travel refer to as the ‘Greenacre Kiss’.
When the former directors of the XL Leisure Group started up Kiss Flights, our parent company The Co-operative Travel Group decided not to deal with them. Letting our competitors pick up this business was very painful for us all, and we did not let this go lightly.
The ‘Greenacre Kiss’ means putting personal responsibility above personal gain, ensuring your customers are protected not only by Abta and Atol bondings, but by an organisation that has integrity.
Clients balk at Esta ransom
Another issue bouncing about at the moment is the introduction of the Esta fee (to enter the US) in September, with customers’ knee-jerk reactions being less than positive. However, paying to enter other countries is not new – take visas, for example.
It is absolutely crucial that advice about visa applications is not taken lightly. One of my customers said: “No, I haven’t had any convictions.” It turned out that 30 years ago, he had had a slight altercation with the law, involving alcohol, a missing pair of trousers and a fountain. Time had simply blurred his memory and naturally he had clean forgotten.
So be clear, ask direct questions, make a joke, but ensure your customers give themselves plenty of time to complete the application process in case the Esta is not suitable for them.
And just when I thought I’d heard it all, a backpacker called me last week asking: “Do I need a visa to travel to China, as when I looked online it said a MasterCard would do?”