Independent high street travel agencies which have demonstrated strong customer service during the coronavirus crisis will be the “winners” in the trade longer term.

Agents on a Travel Weekly webcast said now was the time for agents to “blow their own trumpets” and step up marketing efforts as the UK lockdown is eased.

They claimed holidaymakers were more likely to trust travel retailers who had shown their dedication to clients and been easy to contact during the lockdown – and avoid those difficult to contact over refunds or rebookings.

Paul Waters, director of 24-branch agency Premier Travel in East Anglia, said consumers would inevitably choose agents based on service.

He said: “It will come down to customer service. If we have provided good customer service in this climate people will want to come back and use us again. It’s where you have not, they will look for someone new.

“They will turn to the high-street more to see who they can trust. I think we stand to do better.”

Richard Slater, owner of one-branch Henbury Travel in Macclesfield, agreed: “Our customers have been able to talk to us throughout this situation whereas larger agencies you have had to email or not been able to get hold of.

“I think we will find more people will say, ‘we can’t get hold of those guys, we will try this little fella here because he seems to be putting out positive messages’. I think smaller independents will get a really nice boost [in business].”

Sandra Corkin, managing director of six-branch Oasis Travel in northern Ireland, said now was a sensible time to remind clients of the work agents have put in to ensure clients’ bookings are looked after.

Her agency had now processed just over 60% of customers who had been due to travel between March and the end of June.

She said: “I would like to get to over 70% of people with refunds and then we can really start looking forward. I really think now is the time to tell customers and remind them of the enormous amount of work we have put in to help people. We have to make sure we blow our own trumpets.”

Slater said his agency was just starting to ramp up the number of offers it promotes while Premier Travel is similarly “slowly bringing back some marketing” for 2021 holidays.

Slater added: “We have done mailshots and the open rates have been at 45% on average because everyone is at home; you would never get that in normal times.”