Comment: The trade needs more support from domestic operators

Partnerships are key with staycations on the agenda, says Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson

As far back as the 12th century, Scottish historians can find references to The Glasgow Fair. What started as a period of festivities evolved into a two-week holiday period towards the end of July to allow workers and their families to enjoy a well-deserved break and join in celebrations across the city.

From the 1800s through to the mid-1900s, The Glasgow Fair also became one of the most popular times of year for Glaswegians and their families to pack their suitcases and head ‘doon the watter’ – or down the water – for holidays in popular coastal towns on the west coast of Scotland.

Towns expanded their accommodation offering, the production of paddle steamers increased and the railway network expanded to meet demand. It was an early indication of how our travel industry has always quickly kept up with consumer demand when it comes to the prized annual getaway.

Of course, heading to towns across the coast was popular throughout the UK, but I still have my own fond childhood memories of the sheer delight of taking day trips to Ayrshire towns for ice-cream and fish and chips during the summer holidays.

Fast forward a century or two and you’ll find that while the destinations may have changed, the sentiment and excitement felt during a family holiday remains the same.

Staycations on agenda

However, summer 2020 may well be the first year in decades when we can’t jet off to enjoy sunnier climes and tropical surroundings. And many people are already realising that, if they can’t holiday abroad, then a staycation is next on their agenda.

A lot has happened in our industry since the collapse last year of Super Break, which was one of our key partners for UK breaks. With so many challenges, there possibly has not been the opportunity for new or existing domestic travel suppliers to increase their offering to the trade.

As a business, we know we need to adapt to the inevitable demand for UK breaks in 2020 – and possibly beyond, but we need more support from the domestic operators to fulfil customer requests.
Some operators have turned completely away from the trade. At a time when we should be pulling together to adapt, innovate and keep our overall sector alive, this is really frustrating.

There’s a real opportunity to work together to deliver new experiences and alternative options for our customers who may prefer to book UK breaks both this year and in the future.

Partnerships are key

We have had brilliant conversations with some new UK partners and I think the key here is the partnership. UK breaks will not be a one-hit wonder. It is likely they will become an intrinsic part of every travel agency’s business over the next few years.

Firstly, people will look for alternative breaks to replace their foreign holidays. And secondly, it’s likely that our nation will fall back in love with the staycation once again and incorporate a UK holiday into their annual schedules in the coming years.

People, naturally, gravitate towards nostalgia, and holidays at home will strike a chord with a huge a number of generations – igniting fond memories from the past. Curated experiences and adventure will still be front-of-mind, but there is no reason we can’t offer this type of holiday in the UK, with so many varied and rich landscapes and regions to explore.

Perhaps our industry, just like our predecessors in days gone by did, needs to evaluate the demand and start working out how we can deliver these holiday experiences on our own doorstep.

After all, holidays ‘doon the watter’, holidays at home, staycations – or however else you and your family remember them – will still generate cherished memories for years to come. And isn’t that what we, as travel agents, are trying to achieve?

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