Spear Travel’s Kim Kent says 2020 has been the worst year travel has ever seen, and shares what she has learned
As we say goodbye to 2020, we look back on a year that will go down in history as the worst our industry has had to endure.
January and February saw many bookings, but by the end of March we were told not to go to work.
“Days turned into weeks and we looked to tour operators and airlines to help us find solutions, but they were suffering too with cancellations and refund demands.”
April and May came with a flood of panic and confusion. As customers needed help with their holidays, we turned from sales people to administrators overnight. Victims of our own success, we had to help cancel or move these bookings in lockdown, watching the world close down.
With heavy hearts, we did what we could to make sure our customers got the best service as we dealt with an unprecedented situation. Days turned into weeks and we looked to tour operators and airlines to help us find solutions, but they were suffering too with cancellations and refund demands from panicking customers.
Government’s furlough scheme helped
Government advice was sketchy and showed a lack of understanding of our industry. There was no offer of help, and daily policy changes meant giving correct information to our customers was a nightmare. When furlough was introduced, many used it to save their businesses, but it came at the cost of reducing workforces meaning some were left with endless admin while others were stuck at home desperate but unable to help.
June saw more holidays cancelled, with no end in sight. We heard of cruise companies, travel agents and tour operators going into administration. We read stories of those who just couldn’t cope. It was soul destroying and there was nothing we could do about it.
“When furlough was introduced, many used it to save their businesses, but it came at the cost of reducing workforces.”
It was back to the office for key workers in July and August as we continued to help customers. We saw a glimmer of light as some countries opened borders and a few bookings were made – but some corridors were dropped soon after being introduced, leading to more refunds. We looked to September for some relief but there was little change. Shop windows advertised late bookings to Greece and 2021-22 holidays in the hope we could make some sales.
Travel agent bookings bounce
The end of furlough was due in October and we feared for our jobs, with a palpable tension in the air. We hung on every news item hoping for any winter sun destinations to open. The Canaries became available and tour operators rallied. There was a mini-rush of bookings but another lockdown meant all was cancelled – again. It felt like we were back to square one.
“We hung on every news item hoping for any winter sun destinations to open. The Canaries became available and tour operators rallied.”
November was strange and eerie, with everyone fed up with Covid, the news, the government and the lockdown. As we look to Christmas to cheer us up the development of a vaccine offers light at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly we are busy, customers want something to look forward to and a bookings bounce continues into December.
So what did we learn? That flexibility is key. I told my team, ‘I know who I’m putting my business with next year’. What can we do better? Be prepared, listen and learn from our mistakes, focus on what has been successful. Happy Christmas everyone and cheers to a fresh start in 2021.
Social media marketing
With the various lockdowns in place throughout the year, we have turned to social media for the bulk of our marketing. Alongside our marketing department, one of my team has done an exceptional job in sourcing some of the best deals to promote on our Facebook page and newly-launched Instagram account.
With the aid of tour operator videos and imagery, offers are varied to attract as many people as possible. We post up to six times a day and the results speak for themselves. There has definitely been interest all through the year but now, with the news of a vaccine rollout, confidence in travel is growing so the posts are coming into their own as tiered restrictions remain in place.
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