Some customers won’t travel this year, some are determined to and others plan to splash out next year, says Spear Travel’s Kim Kent.

I have been quite surprised by the varying degrees of importance my customers have given to this virus. Some are adamant they will not travel this year, while others want a holiday no matter what. I think the reason for this difference is that the rules change daily on what you can and can’t do.

So should our focus now be on 2021-22? Or, as we hear some agencies saying they are busy with late bookings, should we be looking at these and taking the risk they won’t be cancelled? I have done a bit of both, offering late deals to destinations showing low rates of Covid and offering next year as well.

The customers who have booked for next year have wanted to treat themselves to a special trip. I think they have missed not travelling and have the extra means to buy something better than they would normally. Interestingly, my late sales are steady with many bargains to be had.

I’ve rebooked him…

A week ago, an elderly client called in to talk about a river cruise booked for September. He paid his balance and was happy to travel.

Unfortunately, I later had to call him to say it had been cancelled due to Covid-19. He was really upset about this as he had already had two other holidays cancelled this year. He said he had paid a lot for an annual travel insurance policy that he had not used yet!

“After chatting with them about various options, she has now asked for prices to Greece, and while there’s been no booking yet, it’s a start.”

There was no mention of the virus situation, just disappointment. I said, ‘what about switching to Greece or Italy where it may be safer to travel?’ But he said ‘no, I think we will go back to Majorca’. I asked him if he wanted to have a chat with his wife first and he said, ‘just book it and upgrade the room’. I explained about the quarantine rules, and he just said ‘fine, we self‑isolate most of the time anyway’. Who am I to argue with him?

Another client was due to travel to Tenerife until the Foreign Office changed its travel advice for Spain, and she decided not to go. Her family, especially the kids, were all very disappointed at the prospect of not going on holiday. After chatting with them about various options, she has now asked for prices to Greece, and while there’s been no booking yet, it’s a start, and has them thinking about it.

… and I’ve helped them

I have also had a number of calls from people who have booked elsewhere online asking me for help and advice on what they need to do before they go.

One couple who’d booked with BA Holidays had no idea what the entry requirements were for Dubai.

I also had a guy asking for help with a future cruise credit he had received from Imagine Cruising. He said he wanted a refund and didn’t understand why they would not give him one. I explained as best I could.

“I have also had a number of calls from people who have booked elsewhere online asking me for help and advice on what they need to do before they go.”

I strongly believe in giving customers as much information as possible. Explaining the reasons why measures are put in place helps them to understand how it works.

So, whether it’s deciding to travel during Covid, or deciding to use an agent or not, the choice is with the customer. Hopefully they’ll remember the value we add, especially in these confusing times.


Non-bookers’ cheek can be your chance

I know agents can see it as a bit of a cheek when people who have not booked with you, but know about you, call for help and advice. My policy has always been to be kind, pleasant and help if you can. You can then have that conversation with them about the fact that they did not book with you – and ask them ‘why?’.

If you have a good enough reputation for them to remember where you are, then you deserve a shot at quoting for their next booking. Don’t be shy in letting them know you are professional, helpful, competitive and know what you are talking about. They might come to you next time!

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