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Agent Diary: ‘No amount of Zoom meetings can match interacting in-person’

The return of face-to-face events has reminded us why we are in travel, and that we must look forward, not back, says Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson.

The recent trickle of much-appreciated industry events has given the travel agent community an opportunity to see our suppliers face-to-face, and to remember what it’s like to get dressed up and have a laugh while we do the job we love.

It has made me realise that there is nothing like face-to-face contact.

No amount of Zoom meetings or online purchases can replicate the atmosphere, enthusiasm and emotional intelligence of interacting with someone in person.

“September gave us our first boost of good sales with the return of customers who had received refunds due to Covid, and newbies who are just a bit afraid to book online.”

This is why we are independent travel agents, after all. We can assess our customers’ willingness to book much better face-to-face.

On that note, September gave us our first boost of good sales with the return of customers who had received refunds due to Covid, and newbies who are just a bit afraid to book online.

Hope has risen from the ashes as the government and devolved administrations seem to be removing unnecessary restrictions to travellers – and our travelling customers are proving to be our best forms of marketing right now.

Looking back

It is a delight to hear from those who have been away – how they loved it and, but for a couple of forms and tests, have been able to get the much-needed break they deserve.

In this last month we have also remembered September 11. I can recall arriving in my office and watching those events unfold before my eyes 20 years ago. It was an absolute shock – it still is to this day – and badly affected us all.

“As time progresses, we will learn to cope with what has happened in the past 18 months and move towards new things.”

The world couldn’t travel, then didn’t want to travel. No one would ever fly to the US again, we were told, or sit beside anyone with a rucksack or visit European destinations, including London, which also faced terror attacks.

I don’t say any of that flippantly, but to highlight that life did return again. We will always remember, but only look back to remember as we aren’t going backwards. We all now travel with 100ml of liquid and most probably don’t question why. So as time progresses, we will learn to cope with what has happened in the past 18 months and move towards new things.

Looking ahead

On a positive note, Thompson Travel successfully renewed our Atol licence in September. It’s great news for a small independent travel agency and tour operator, and a positive message to give to our customers.

But September has also brought challenges, specifically around furlough. While our optimism grows, I feel for those who know they will have lost their job or chosen to move to a different career.

“Thompson Travel successfully renewed our Atol licence in September. It’s great news for a small independent travel agency and tour operator, and a positive message to give to our customers.”

We are all in the same storm and have to make the choices that best suit our lives and the ‘boats’ we are in. I recently read a verse that resonated with me: Take chances – take a lot of them. Because no matter where you end up, it always ends up just the way it should be.

We all grow with every choice we make or situation we end up in.

That advice applies whether you are a staff member or a business owner.


SHUTTERSTOCK camera

Capture the moment

I bought my partner, Mark, his first semi-professional camera for his birthday. Remember cameras? Now, I say this was a present for him, but I’m hoping to get to grips with how to use it too! Being at home has made us notice and appreciate things more. There are so many great pictures we could have captured. I have a great phone, and the pictures it takes are good, but I never then stick them in albums. And when I’m bragging about my granddaughter or telling others where I have been, the photos are viewed on a 7×3-inch screen, which never does them justice. We need a few lessons on how to actually use the new camera properly, but I’m hoping it will be a return ticket to moments otherwise gone.

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