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Jet2.com boss sees ‘very bright future’ for travel agency model

The boss of Jet2.com predicts a “very, very bright future” for travel agents but urges the travel sector to “work harder” to bring consumers back to the high street.

Steve Heapy said the airline and its sister brand Jet2holidays work closely with the trade and have put independent agents “at the heart” of the sales bounceback.

“We’re happy to support any travel agent because we want to help them to bring business to their shops as well,” he told a Travel Weekly webcast.

“But the days of a travel agent sitting at a desk and waiting for people to walk past naturally has gone or certainly gone for some time.

“We have all got to work harder to bring people into the town centre.”

He said the government needs to help too, with town centre regeneration strategies that “breathe life” back into commercial agents, perhaps by allowing residential use in retail premises.

“The travel agent model is by no means over. I think it’s got a very, very bright future. It just might be slightly different,” he told Travel Weekly.

Heapy said high street agents had been hit over recent years by trends such as local councils approving out-of-town shopping centres and charging “exorbitant car parking” fees.

“The Covid period of the last 18-20 months has just compounded that effect,” he commented.

“Travel agents have it tough. I walk into my town centre every week…and it’s quiet. There’s not a lot to go in for.

“We’ve got four travel agents there; they’re all desperate for business.”

As well as helping agents with discounts and promotions, Jet2.com is working in partnership with agents on marketing initiatives.

Richard Slater, owner of Henbury Travel in Macclesfield, was inspired to contact Jet2 after seeing Heapy talk about agency partnerships on an earlier Travel Weekly webcast – and now has a large billboard on a local roundabout promoting his agency and Jet2holidays.

Heapy said it was “great” and described agents as “a very important part of our business”.

He agreed that the continuing complexity of travel, with different forms required for each destination, means agents will still to play an important role in the booking process.

“It’s extremely onerous…and it’s not very relaxing if you have got to start thinking about testing and filling forms,” he said.

“It detracts a little bit from the point of a holiday, which is to relax and get away from things.”

Picture by Willy Barton/shutterstock.com

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