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Elite shows how agents are dealing with uncertainty to make their business grow

John Escott, general manager of Elite Travel Group, talks about getting feedback from agents on the high streets, growing businesses and dealing with uncertainty

One aspect of my job that I very much enjoy is visiting Elite Travel Group members at their agencies.

It is always interesting and informative to visit our members and understand from them what is happening on the high street, their concerns, successes and, most importantly, the strategies being used to attract new customers. Many members now hold regular themed evenings and travel shows, as well as embracing social media and undertaking local marketing to attract new customers. They give a high level of service to current customers to ensure they return. My feedback indicates that it is tough out there but many members are finding their niche and succeeding in growing their business − sales of long-haul, cruising, tailormade and touring holidays are seeing significant growth and forward bookings for 2020. Perhaps the public are hoping the Brexit uncertainty will be resolved by then. We can but hope!

Social media is an area that many in the travel industry are just getting to grips with. Understanding it and knowing how to use it effectively is not straightforward, but it is vital that we give it a try. A few weeks ago, we held a social media training event for our members in conjunction with Bruce at Ginger Juice. Bruce was informative and gave members plenty to think about on how to move their social media strategy forward. It was interesting to hear that constantly featuring offers does not always have the desired response. It is more effective to bring your social media to life, make it more personal, share the teams’ travelling experiences and use it to inspire and make your content fun and interesting. The feedback has been tremendous, with many members now having more confidence in utilising social media which, in turn, will help to generate interest and hopefully bookings in the future.

I do hope that the uncertainty surrounding the future of Thomas Cook will soon be resolved. Reports in the press suggest that a takeover by Fosun is close. I hope so, as this will help bring confidence and clarity back to the industry. Thomas Cook is a household name and a major player.

Hopefully, this takeover will allay the fears of the travelling public, as well as their dedicated staff. Let’s hope the new owners realise the important role that the independent agent could play in achieving their future success.

It is always sad to see a longstanding operator go into administration as was the case with Cuba Holidays. It re-emphasised the importance of ensuring that every travel agent has up-to-date supplier documentation in place, including agency agreements. As if rebooking affected customers isn’t enough, some members have expressed concern over their dealings with the CAA, delays and demands for more paperwork. It is with concern, however, that one member was told that all direct bookings would be dealt with first, and then they would process claims via travel agents. The member reported that their customer had questioned why they should have booked through a travel agent – if they had booked direct their claim would have already been resolved. I do hope that all bookings are treated equally and any claims in future are resolved quickly and fairly for all affected customers.

Finally, I am sensing that Japan will certainly be in the public eye over the coming year. I know from feedback that there has already been an increase in enquiries for this exciting destination.

In 2020, the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, but even more exciting for me is the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on September 20, with the final on November 2.

Be prepared for even greater interest in Japan− and come on England!

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