Customers are looking for ‘nostalgia travel, says JG Travel Group chief executive Andy Freeth

There’s a saying, ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity’. I don’t think such a thought has ever been more appropriate than now when talking about the travel industry over the past year.

We’ve dug deep through the hardest period many of us have known. We’ve stuck together and I truly believe we will emerge stronger than ever.

While we all understand how vitally important it is that non-essential international travel resumes as soon as possible, these continue to be challenging times as we wait for more clarity on elements such as the green-list countries and the testing situation. However, I never stop being amazed at just how resilient our industry is and how we find opportunities in even the toughest of circumstances.

I believe demand for UK holidays and breaks will continue to grow as many customers opt to holiday on home soil this year, and this provides incredible opportunities. I take my hat off to all those tour operators, cruise lines and travel business which have pivoted and adapted during the last year, creating domestic products and programmes they probably never imagined they would. I wonder if any other industry, when facing the same situation we have, would rise to the challenge in quite the same way travel has.

Clever adjustments

Who could have imagined, 12 months ago, that this summer we’d see our UK coastlines dotted with some of the leading cruise ships in the world? Or that West End shows such as Mamma Mia! would create outdoor performances to ensure theatre lovers can get their fix in the fresh air? Or that we’d be dining in outdoor pods at hotels and restaurants around the UK? Certainly not me!

The same is true of many travel agents. Despite all they have been through, they’ve kept upbeat and consistently adjusted their sales messages to ensure they are offering their customers the products in demand. Understanding how to sell domestic and all the various products on offer is key, and it could be argued that, until quite recently, many agents didn’t focus much attention on selling the UK.

MoreDomestic trade sales are ‘here to stay’

Operators report ‘very strong’ domestic bookings

It is therefore great to see consortia such as The Advantage Travel Partnership, which has created a dedicated domestic campaign with a variety of operators, including ourselves, recognising this to ensure members have all the tools they need to service this growing demand.

Helpful training

If you haven’t already, do the UK training, watch the webinars, create the social posts to drive demand and, most importantly, ask operators for help if you need it. Our industry thrives on face-to-face contact and relationships, and while we all understand many agents will be busy over the coming weeks now their doors are open, once things settle down we can’t wait to get back out there and into stores. Never before has agent knowledge been more important as customers look for advice and reassurance – even for UK breaks.

With self-catering properties now open and the May 17 restart date for domestic hotels and group travel fast approaching, agents should expect more customers to book last-minute trips as confidence builds.

One key thing to come out of this pandemic is the desire to spend time with friends and family groups. I’ve heard the term ‘nostalgia travel’ mentioned several times and, since the roadmap announcement, this is definitely a trend we’ve seen. Customers are booking trips they’ve done before and returning to places that evoke happy memories. This year especially, customers appear to have less desire to do something different – they want to go somewhere familiar, where they know they’ve been happy before.

Once holidaying overseas returns at a pace, all the knowledge and skills gained to promote the UK during the pandemic will still be invaluable to agents. There is no doubt customers have discovered more of their own country, found places they now love visiting and, for many, their second or third holiday or short break is likely to be a UK option.

MoreDomestic trade sales are ‘here to stay’

Operators report ‘very strong’ domestic bookings