Suppliers are taking a softly-softly approach to visiting reopened travel agencies, with online contact remaining the main channel for most sales teams.
Claire Dutton, JG Travel Group’s trade sales manager, said the Just Go!, National Holidays and Omega parent would stick to social media, Zoom calls and communications from head office for the time being.
“Once things settle, we plan to restart visits and even increase them towards summer,” she said.
Sales and yield director Matthew Herbert said bookings through agents returned to pre-lockdown levels on Monday, providing a “clear indication” of demand. He said: “Customers want to visit their local travel agent to get expert advice and reassurance.”
Nick Hughes, sales director for trade-only operator Gold Medal, said feedback from agents suggested they were prioritising visits from customers over suppliers, or waiting for demand to rise. He confirmed: “We don’t plan to send our trade partnership managers back to agencies immediately.”
Gold Medal said phone enquiries rose by nearly 20% across its brands on Monday when agencies opened.
Jet2holidays said it would continue its virtual trade support “for the time being”, while Royal Caribbean International and Classic Collection said sales teams were speaking to agents and planning visits when suitable.
Andrew Fielding, Kuoni’s retail sales development manager, said it was “too early” to welcome suppliers, adding: “It’s unfair to staff if they already have a restriction on numbers. If we get reps in, it takes away the ability to serve customers.”
However, Riviera Travel reported positive feedback as its sales staff made pre-arranged visits to agencies.
Paul Mellon, key account manager, visited Fred Olsen Travel branches in Christchurch, Hythe and Lymington in southern England.
“We were one of the first operators to go out on the road after the first lockdown and it is nice to be on the road again,” he said. “It shows we’re committed to the trade. We’re working virtually too, engaging with the trade the way they want.”
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