Atas operators: ‘Agents are vital part of our business’

Touring and adventure specialists have urged travel agents to contact them for marketing resources and support to help cater for pent-up demand.

“Travel agents are vital part of our business,” said Janet Parton, sales and marketing director at Cosmos and chair of the trade engagement working group at Atas, the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers.

She was talking with fellow Atas members Explore, Wendy Wu Tours and Travelsphere/Just You, along with Claire Brighton, Atas account director, during the association’s online conference held from 19-23 October.

“Every travel business is going through some pain; we have all had to make some very difficult and challenging decisions along the way, all for the long-term survival of our businesses,” said Parton.

“Two of the greatest costs are overheads and marketing spend, which have had to be reduced.

“That said, we have an absolute belief that the market will come back, so we have kept our six sales team members together.

“We think highly of agents. We are ready here to talk, not just about Cosmos, we can talk about the wider touring sector.”
She said support can be tailored to each agency’s needs and includes branded marketing collateral, virtual consumer events, webinars and training.

Ben Ittensohn, head of global sales at Explore, said his company has also retained its full agency sales team, and has used the government’s furlough and job support schemes.

Explore held a virtual launch for its physical 2021 brochure and he encouraged agents to contact the operator for marketing assets.

John Warr, global sales director at Wendy Wu Tours, said his agency team has done 85 webinars since the start of lockdown, along with virtual joint consumer events.

“I am bit surprised that we have not had more people using the resource that we have on offer here,” he commented.

“I sympathise with agents: it is hard for agents but we must look to the future. Those who have engaged with us are seeing the bookings coming in and the guys on the road make the difference.

“Use us to drive forward new bookings.

“There is definitely pent-up demand; you need to make sure customers are comfortable around accommodation, transport, sightseeing and guides.”

Sarah Weetman, head of trade sales at G Touring brands Travelsphere and Just You, said her team’s webinars have been particularly popular, helping consumers to find out about destinations and tours.

“We listen to trade partners: what do they need from us and how can we make life easier for them…that’s our job,” she said,

“Ultimately, we all want inquiries and convert them to bookings. Get in touch with us.”

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