The rise in bookings is nice but we’re also having to spend a lot of time on admin and requests for changes, says The Travel Snob’s David Walker, a Not Just Travel homeworker.
With the recent uptick in sales, I’ve been wondering how our customers think our businesses are faring right now.
I’ve had so many people say: “Oh, I bet you’re loving it again now; you must be really busy?”
“Yes,” I reply. “I am, but what do you think I am busy doing?” They think all we are doing is sitting at our desks completing bookings – I wish that was all I was busy with!
“Personally, I have never been so busy. It’s true, bookings are coming in, but so are the enquiries from customers with very unrealistic expectations.”
Yes, there is a fair amount of booking new holidays, but customers have no idea of the amount of admin involved: the questions, speaking to suppliers (and waiting on hold to suppliers), checking rules, keeping abreast of changes to restrictions, of updates to flight schedules, cancellations, blah blah blah…
Personally, I have never been so busy. It’s true, bookings are coming in, but so are the enquiries from customers with very unrealistic expectations, often wanting to know the cost to upgrade their flights. I have now started to ask those clients for the maximum amount they would pay, as you can be on hold to the supplier for ever and a day checking – and you only want to do that once!
Is it me, or do more people than ever before want to make changes to their planned trips? Is that a new thing since Covid?
Requests have come in all shapes and sizes: moving the trip to a week before; flying the day before and coming back a day earlier; extending the entire trip for few days; shifting it a week or so before or after; upgrading seats or rooms; swapping hotels; or taking extra people.
“[Some clients] think they are the only people who have had the last-minute idea to go away for Christmas, so think availability will be easy and pricing low.”
It’s all additional work that, in most cases, we cannot simply do online and takes more time than usual. In one day, I took almost £9,000 in card payments for extras and changes for just three bookings.
Clients also seem to have unrealistic expectations right now. Some of them think they are the only people who have had the last-minute idea to go away for Christmas, so think availability will be easy and pricing will be low. Trust me, two adults will not get a five-star beach hotel in Dubai on New Year’s Eve for £2,000 half-board; gala dinner tickets are going to be half that price alone.
Then we have the family of four who think they are the only ones who want some all-inclusive Christmas sunshine and have an unrealistic budget of £3,000. And don’t get me started on finding a decent room in Barbados with well-priced flights in business class.
“Christmas for me this year will be unusual as we’re off to Lebanon. And I certainly won’t be making amendments to that booking.”
I am so pleased I always discuss budgets before I start searching, but it is a long process to explain why prices are so different to clients’ expectations. Worse still is having to explain it’s not our pricing and pointing out they won’t find anything cheaper with another agent. These are the actual prices!
It’s not only clients booking trips again, though. It’s great to have a few of my own booked for the future – and nice to have to check my calendar to see if I will be here in May or August. Christmas for me this year will be unusual as we’re off to Lebanon. And I certainly won’t be making amendments to that booking.
Loyalty merits a little gift
It’s coming up to that time of year where we send our clients a thank you gift. But how should we select them this year? My biggest spenders booked, but many had to move to next year as they mainly opted for long-haul, so they didn’t go anywhere, certainly not in the first half of the year. Do I send them something? Or do I send something to the elderly couple who have been on four Jet2holidays breaks, amounting to just the deposit of the long-haul bookings but on which we’ve actually received the commission? In general, though, we are thanking clients for their loyalty this year, for which I am very grateful.