Miss Ellies Travel has run its first radio campaign to raise awareness of its presence in Manchester after closing its original premises in 2011. Long-standing staff member Bekki Moran talks about how the campaign has helped the business

Q: Why did Miss Ellies run its first radio campaign?
A: Miss Ellies opened in 1987 in Ancoats on the outskirts of Manchester city centre and was very well known. That shop closed down in 2011, but we still have our branch in Urmston. It’s about eight miles from the city centre and is where we are based now. The reason we wanted to do this campaign was because people thought Miss Ellies Travel had closed down. It was very much a shop where people went in for flights to Tenerife, (for example) but it had a really good reputation all based on co-founder Ellie [Ellen Doherty, now retired].

Q: Has the campaign been a success?
A: We have had amazing feedback and gained bookings from it. Our business partners have provided us with lots of things to give away. Our partners for the campaign were P&O Cruises, Wendy Wu Tours, Royal Caribbean, Jet2holidays, Flexible Car Hire, Funway, Attraction World, MSC Cruises, Travel 2 and Classic Collection. The first 100 customers to book got a goodie bag containing things like drink bottles, panda soft toys and aprons. We have really started to notice an increase in the number of people coming into the branch. Customers are saying they have heard about us from the radio campaign and so it has helped build brand awareness. The campaign ran from February 3-14, and we have seen an 18% increase in phone calls.

Q: Is the agency doing any other advertising to promote brand awareness?
We are looking at other advertising opportunities such as billboards and bus stops around Manchester. We also have a Facebook page where we upload pictures and offers.

Q: How different is it working as a travel agent now compared with 18 years ago when you started?
A: When I joined, the internet was not a big thing. Customers would come in to book and they would not have shopped around. It was a case of picking up a brochure and that was it. Every enquiry took three hours of ringing around to put it together whereas these days you can do it yourself on the web. There is a massive difference in how holidays are booked. We have got used to it, but now you have to contend with the fact everything is price-driven. There isn’t a day that goes by where you don’t have to fight for a booking. Our experience really helps; we have five members of staff and between us we have got 100 years’ service.

Q: What makes the conventional travel agent so important to holidaymakers?
A: What sets us apart is the fact we see the clients right the way through their holiday. When our customers are abroad and something happens, like the ash cloud [from the Icelandic volcano in 2010], when people were stranded, we were able to help. Clients will always deal with the same person at the agency and we will go through any issues they have. The majority of our bookings are face to face. Experience really does help and if one person doesn’t know something then someone else in the shop will.

Q: What makes you different from other agencies?
A: What helps us gain sales is we have access to a lot of luxury hotel stock through Bedbank.com, part of the Vertical Travel Group. We promote these hotels on posters in the shop window and we also shout about them on social media, particularly those in Greece.

Bekki’s sales tips

Send welcome home cards: They go down a storm and a lot of people come in to tell us about their holiday.
Use social media: Customers are usually happy to share their experiences.
Go the extra mile: Personal service sets you apart.