Comment: It’s time to look to the future

It’s time to look to the future, says Zina Bencheikh, managing director of Intrepid Travel EMEA

When the pandemic began back in March 2020 there was much talk of when we would return to ‘normal’ – would it be three weeks, three months, three years?

Eighteen months on, it’s clear that we can’t expect to return to how things were.

We have to adapt to this new world and look to the future.

That’s why we’re moving from survival to revival mode at Intrepid.

Yes, there will still be challenges ahead, but there is undoubtedly pent-up demand for adventure and new experiences.

We’re seeing an increase in enquiries and bookings.

And in September, we’ll be operating 186 departures to 23 countries – the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

As we start to see some recovery, agents have a unique opportunity to capitalise on the benefits that selling touring and adventure holidays can offer.

While many clients have stayed in the UK or opted for European villa and beach holidays this year, for 2022 we’re seeing a strong appetite for more adventurous and far-flung holidays, from Everest Base Camp to Antarctica expeditions.

The opportunities are there – but selling this type of holiday has changed so it’s important to adapt your approach.

Be proactive. Ask the right questions. And bear in mind these five points:

• Safety is the number-one consideration for many customers.

Tour operators have implemented strict hygiene and health protocols. Look for the WTTC Safe Travels badge or similar to ensure the company you’re booking with complies with all the practices needed to keep travellers and employees safe.

• Flexibility is essential.

The last 18 months have shown that anything can happen, so it’s not surprising that customers will be concerned that their money will be protected if their trip can’t go ahead. Most operators now have very flexible terms and are doing their best to help travellers feel confident to book.

• Don’t be afraid to upsell.

After so many months of restrictions, many customers will be looking to treat themselves to a very special holiday and will be happy to upgrade their accommodation. Intrepid’s new range of higher-end Premium adventures are perfect for those looking for adventure with a softer landing.

• Take advantage of the breadth of product available.

Escorted touring doesn’t have to mean bucket list adventures – they could be city breaks, cultural or food tours. They can be far-flung but they can also be walking in Cornwall or cycling in the Lake District.

• Sustainability is going mainstream.

During the pandemic, we’ve all become more aware of the impact of our choices, whether it’s supporting local shops or minimising our use of plastic. As travel returns, customers will want to buy from brands who show they really care about the impact of travel on people and the planet.

The last 18 months have shown how resilient we are as an industry.

Now’s the time to build on these positive signs of recovery and work together towards a brighter future.

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