Travel agents cannot afford to ignore UK destinations, says Hoseasons head of sales Zena Calderbank, the newly-appointed chair of ABTA's UK Tourism and Leisure Committee.
She has urged agents to recognise the economic downturn means British holidaymakers who might otherwise have taken their breaks abroad will be staying in the UK this year.
She said: "Traditionally the UK has been the poor relation in the minds of many travel agents, but given the current climate, the trade has to grasp the opportunity that the UK presents in 2009. Here is a chance to hold onto existing customers, as well as tap into a huge existing market which some in the trade simply haven't cottoned onto yet.
"To take advantage of this, travel agents need to be clued up on what the UK holiday product offers - and many may be surprised once they start to scratch the surface.
"Holidaying in the UK no longer means compromising on quality. The product has changed dramatically over the past ten years, with the addition of high-end accommodation and ever-better facilities, so holidaymakers switching to a UK break don't need to forego the kind of holiday experience they hope for.
"If travel agents can satisfy their demand for a top quality holiday at an affordable price, then they will build customer loyalty at a time when that is vital not just to prosperity, but to survival.
"Even if demand for overseas holidays picks up again in future years, by educating holidaymakers that they can book UK holidays through travel agents, then the trade will continue to reap the rewards in terms of additional bookings for short breaks and second holidays in the future."
ABTA is also increasing the amount of training available on selling domestic product through its Accredited Travel Professional. The scheme developed by ABTA, in association with ITT and People 1st, is the travel industry standard for continuous professional development. It allows agents to increase their skills and gain points towards their ATP.
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