‘There will be a time when this nightmare ends’, said Cosmos chief executive Giles Hawke
We are surrounded by bad news at the moment, and nothing is looking like it’s going to improve in the short term. We have Covid-19 with no end in sight, Brexit with no benefits in sight, business failures, winter coming, mass unemployment on the way, and the very real risk of a complete idiot being re‑elected to serve a second term as leader of one of the world’s superpowers.
And that’s without mentioning climate change – the big elephant in the room that potentially overshadows all of these minor irritations.
One could be forgiven for feeling a little depressed about global events outside of our control and their impact on our daily lives, our family, friends and colleagues, as well as our businesses and our jobs.
This slightly pessimistic outlook got me thinking about what we do have to look forward to, and how to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to start looking forward. And it made me think of holidays!
I normally know what my next holiday is going to be and I usually have at least one booked and others in the planning stage, however far in advance and however short they might be. Right now, however, I don’t have a single holiday of my own booked and I know a lot of industry colleagues don’t either. We’re all in limbo.
And if we’re in limbo, and we work in travel, it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people outside of the travel industry are waiting too before they commit to their next booking. With all the uncertainties around travel corridors, ever-changing Foreign Office advice, local lockdowns, refunds and job security, it’s no great shock that consumers are delaying their decision about their biggest discretionary purchase of the year.
Despite this, people are dreaming. At Cosmos and Avalon Waterways, we are seeing heavy website visits, brochure requests and open rates to our emails. We are having travel agents ask us for deals as they have lots of customer interest, and our own customer research has told us that they are using this time to dream, plan and research.
When people can travel again, we are likely to see some extremely well-informed bookers. They will have spent months planning their holidays and understanding every aspect of their trips.
I also think it is very likely that some people will be making multiple bookings when they do feel confident enough to travel again. Not everyone can afford to travel regularly, of course, but a lot of people can and would in normal times, so there is a huge opportunity here for all of us.
Those people who have been stung by booking flights and accommodation separately themselves need to understand that agents and tour operators will give them the peace of mind and reassurance that bonding offers if they book with us in the future.
It has to be incumbent on Abta and the Civil Aviation Authority to help inform customers of the support they will have by booking their trips with reputable, bonded agents and operators when travel revives and people start booking in significant numbers again.
Right now, though, we should be helping our customers with their dreaming – providing information, ideas and suggestions, and reminding them why we should handle their bookings when they are ready to commit.
There will be a time when this nightmare ends, when demand outstrips supply and when consumers will need us again to help them fulfil the dreams that they have been focusing on since March. The Eurythmics summed up those hopes perfectly:
I travel the world and the seven seas;
Everybody’s looking for something.
Sweet Dreams, indeed. We should be ready for it.