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Agent Diary: ‘There has been a sea change in customer confidence recently’

Pent-up demand has truly been unleased and things are really picking up – it’s good to be busy again, says Carla Hutchings, Luxury Travel Associate at Swords Travel in Bournemouth.

What else can I say other than I’ve been really busy?

Since the recent changes to the red list and Foreign Office travel advice, there has been a sea change in customer confidence.

It’s been the busiest couple of months I’ve had since Covid – things are really starting to pick up again. The changes have made a real difference.

People want to go away, and a lot of them want to go away now. The pent-up demand we’ve been talking about for more than a year feels like it’s being unleashed.

“Since the recent changes to the red list and Foreign Office travel advice, there has been a sea change in customer confidence.”

Many people were wanting a break over October half-term even before Grant Shapps last week announced October 24 as the date for the change in day-two testing from PCR to lateral flow tests.

The only problem is the lack of availability in the more mainstream destinations you’d usually book for an autumn or winter break. We sell to the luxury end of the market and it’s almost impossible to find anything suitable in the Canary Islands for October. Even before Covid, it was difficult, so I’ve been cross-selling people to the Indian Ocean and the United Arab Emirates.

Long-haul value

Long-haul destinations are desperate for UK customers to return and, being a specialist from my time at Travel 2 and If Only, I know the amazing value that is available to places like Mauritius at the moment.

I’ve been booking families to Mauritius for October half-term, and for Christmas. It’s amazing value; once you’ve costed it all up, you’re talking an extra £1,000 more than Tenerife.

Some clients might have saved a bit of money over Covid and many are happy to spend a bit more for somewhere a bit more exotic. They can’t believe what they can get for their money in the Indian Ocean right now, and the sun is guaranteed.

“Some clients might have saved a bit of money over Covid and many are happy to spend a bit more for somewhere a bit more exotic.”

So when people want a decent all-inclusive, with sun and a kids’ club, it’s an easy sell.

I’ve also decided to pre-book all my customers’ in-resort kids’ clubs, babysitting and speciality dining for their half-term holidays. It takes the pressure off ahead of their trip and it’s one less thing to worry about.

This service has been really well‑received as a free added extra, and those extras really encourage customers to come back next time. If they had booked on the internet, they wouldn’t get that.

Winter worries

While there is a flurry of interest for the immediate future, some customers I’ve booked for January and February are starting to get slightly itchy feet. They’re a little bit reluctant because they think there might be another wave of Covid over the winter and travel restrictions might return.

“As long as the phone keeps ringing, we’re happy to be taking the calls, whether it’s to reassure, cross-sell or take that next enquiry.”

I have a honeymoon couple booked to Mauritius who have asked to cancel. They don’t want the hassle of rebooking again, and I can understand that. But it does mean we travel agents have an extra layer to our role: reassuring customers in the lead-up to their holidays.

Nevertheless, as long as the phone keeps ringing, we’re happy to be taking the calls, whether it’s to reassure, cross-sell or take that next enquiry. It’s good to be busy again!


SHUTTERSTOCK Elounda

Visiting a special place

I’ve just come back from Greece, where I visited Kalamata on the mainland and Elounda in Crete. It was great to be away. I sell a lot of Domes of Elounda and have customers going there for this half-term. It’s great for families in the luxury market. While I was there I made a few site visits and saw all the room types; I feel like I could sell Elounda with my eyes closed now! I also visited Spinalonga, which is a special place for me because I love Victoria Hislop’s book The Island. A lot of people go there because they’ve read it. It certainly brought the book to life and I can now explain that to my clients too.

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