Travel agents are resilient creatures, many have joined the back of the queue to ride it again, says Hays Travel Washington branch manager Colin Burns

Roll up, roll up… ride our new rollercoaster, The Covid Express! It drops you down, swings you to the right, slams you to the left, throws you up and – just as you start to enjoy the upward feeling – drops you back down again.

We’ve been testing the ride on travel agents across the country for the past six months and they’ve told us it’s guaranteed to leave you totally confused, sometimes disillusioned and always more than a bit sick. Some riders have, in fact, disappeared.

The announcement to take Turkey and Poland off the government’s ‘safe lists’ came as I was writing this column and once again we had that heart-in-mouth feeling of a fresh fall. Phones rang off the hook with customers rightly concerned about their holidays; and it was another round of reassuring them and trying to find alternatives to save bookings.

Mr Shouty

Mr Shouty was on again, telling us his tour operator was a disgrace for cancelling at such short notice and informing us he was going to write to the chief executive for a full explanation. He may need to write to people at a much higher level to find out what’s really going on.

However, most of our customers have been understanding – some even relieved – to hear their holiday was being cancelled. One even responded with the words ‘Get in there, son – result!’

So, as the consequences of the travel restrictions continue to put barriers in the way of real progress for many agencies, we continue to look for and find ways to get over or around them.

“We did toy with the idea of a Bullseye-style Facebook post, with pictures of beaches and cocktails, and Jim Bowen quipping ‘look what you could’ve had’, but decided against it.”

Obviously, footfall has dropped off the scale, especially in areas like the northeast where extra restrictions are in place, so we’re looking for new ways to generate bookings.

Getting the message out that we’re open for business – not quite as usual, but open all the same – and staying in touch with those customers who are not able to visit us will be so important for our future.

We’re keeping dreams alive by using great imagery and reminding people what they have missed in 2020 and what they could have in 2021. We did toy with the idea of a Bullseye-style Facebook post, with pictures of beaches and cocktails, and Jim Bowen quipping ‘look what you could’ve had’, but decided against it.

Social media

Seriously though, social media is proving people still want to travel. Posting great offers with tempting photos and videos can draw those customers in, while good-news stories (a thank-you message or gift received from a customer, for example) can show there’s still some normality.

Many customers are seeking assurances that their holiday will go ahead. We simply cannot give them that, but we can assure them of financial security with a Peace of Mind guarantee. Hays Travel Tour Operating offers free cancellations and amendments up to six weeks before departure and other suppliers have been a great help in this regard. Low deposits are helping too.

“Posting great offers on social media with tempting photos and videos can draw those customers in, while good-news stories can show there’s still some normality.”

If my rollercoaster campaign had been for a real ride, I missed one vital point. Travel agents are resilient creatures; we’ve been there and done that. And many haven’t disappeared – they’ve just joined the back of the queue to ride it again!


SHUTTERSTOCK-shoes

All aboard our kinky coaches

A slip of the tongue gave us an idea for a possible new market last week. Kirsty was talking to a customer about their Shearings refund claim and instead of saying that it was being dealt with by Bonded Coach Holidays, she said ‘bondage coach holidays’.

“As soon as she had ended the call, we started working on a slogan for our new venture. ‘Frisky Friends Love Kinky Coaches’ was the best we have so far.”

Kirsty did well not to laugh, while the rest of us were all but rolling on the floor. As soon as she had ended the call, we started working on a slogan for our new venture. ‘Frisky Friends Love Kinky Coaches’ was the best we have so far. We even thought up a luxury brand, ‘Kinky Connoisseurs’. We would welcome any other suggestions you all might have.
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