Support suppliers and engage with clients for when they are ready to book again, says Swords Travel co-director Mark Swords.

I think everyone will agree this is possibly the toughest time we have experienced in the travel industry. Thinking back to airlines going bust, ash cloud issues and drones flying over Gatwick – how lucky we were.

Like any business we have our challenges right now, but the firm thing in sight for us is that there will be light at the end of the tunnel and we will get through this.

“We need more-stringent measures to protect every business, and to ensure consumers are financially protected and see the benefits of booking with an agent.”

When we had a hint of this issue becoming more serious in the UK, the first thing me and my co‑director Stuart did was sit down and plan how we could survive a worst‑case scenario. At the moment, we are working in fortnightly blocks and reviewing our cashflow, staffing and, most importantly, the ever-changing effects of the coronavirus.

The most challenging part of this whole situation has been the industry guidance and customers’ rights. I think from this experience, the industry will need to change. We need more-stringent measures to protect every business, and to ensure consumers are financially protected and see the benefits of booking with an agent.

Positive messages

However, in situations like this you will never survive if you stand still. So what can we do as agents? How do we turn the current doom and gloom into a positive? We’re all working long hours and dealing with upset people, so it can be hard to motivate yourself.

We plan to change that by making sure that any future content that we send out is positive. It should inspire, engage and help people escape the dreaded ‘C’ word.

“How do we turn the current doom and gloom into a positive? We’re all working long hours and dealing with upset people, so it can be hard to motivate yourself.”

I started the week by filming a 90-second video to speak to our clients via social media – this is so much more personal than an email landing in a crowded inbox or a PDF online. We aim to reassure, be open and honest, and put people’s minds at ease.

The next step for us is to inspire people through armchair travelling, as we’re not going anywhere right now. That can be books, films, TV documentaries and the like. In the coming weeks, we’ll have a range of videos, Facebook Live sessions with suppliers and inspiring content to keep people upbeat. It’s all about engaging with clients, ready for when they want to start booking again.

Acts of goodwill

What has really made me smile this week has been the support and backing of our suppliers. We use a quoting system that costs us a fair bit but which, in a busy market, is worth every penny. We had to contact the company that provides the system to tell them we needed to turn it off to save costs. Their response was immediate. They told us that they appreciated us as a client and offered us three months free to help us through tough times.

“In the coming weeks, we’ll have a range of videos, Facebook Live sessions with suppliers and inspiring content to keep people upbeat.”

Similar acts of goodwill have been made by other suppliers too.

It just shows that people out there do care. I believe that if you stay positive and show your support, it will all come good in the end.


AgentD

Ask for help from suppliers

Throughout the past week, one thing that I have made sure we are doing is using the resources available to us. Our local MP has been a great help and has consistently updated us on what is available to us, plus our consortia has been regularly updating us with information.

But I suggest you should be proactive with this too. Approach your suppliers, banks, landlords and everyone you work with to see how they can help you through this challenging time.

We’ve found most have been very receptive and it has resulted in some really positive outcomes. My thinking behind this is, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.