Contiki is aiming to work more closely with the UK trade in a bid to fill the gap in the youth travel market left by STA Travel’s demise.

New global chief executive Adam Armstrong said the youth operator was already working with a “handful” of travel agents in the UK who saw the opportunity of gaining a larger share of younger customers.

He admitted the collapse of the travel agency STA Travel was a challenge for Contiki as it had provided a “significant” proportion of its UK sales and was a preferred partner of the operator.

STA Travelled collapsed in August with the loss of around 500 jobs. It had 49 agencies in the UK.

He said: “We are trying to fill that gap left by STA. We are working with agencies which see this as a big market they could be missing out there, traditional bricks and mortar agencies and homebased agents.

“We are working on a strategy; a lot of it is educating who our guests are and how agents can transact with them.”

While Armstrong hopes to increase awareness of the Contiki brand among agents, he says marketing will be key to recapturing STA Travel’s client base.

He says: “The challenge for us and for agents is marketing to these customers. They are in the digital and social space. It requires a different marketing strategy and social media is integral to that.”

Armstrong is optimistic that over time more UK agents will work with the brand, which is aimed at 18 to 35 year olds with an average holidaymaker age in the UK of 25. A key part of its product is long-haul packages of long durations.

He said: “It’s lucrative business and long trips of 34 to 45 nights. We are not a household name in the UK like we are in Australia so the greatest challenge is getting people on the first trip.

“It’s not an overnight process, it will take a bit of time, but I’m optimistic. It’s about educating and brand awareness.

Already, in response to Covid-19, the operator has launched a Contiki Consultation Service to offer agents one-to-one Zoom training and help on quotes.

And while international travel is off the agenda, the operator has focused on domestic product. At the end of this summer it introduced glamping trips in Wales and surfing in Devon. More trips are likely in the UK next year.

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