Swords Travel co-director Mark Swords issues plea to extend balance due dates much closer to departure 

As I’m writing this we are in our sixth week of working from home. It’s kind of lost its initial appeal and I’m now ready to get back to my store and start seeing people again.

Our team are all currently furloughed and I’m manning the fort while we get through this tough period. We’ve had team drinks on Fridays, interactive training, and this month we have a live cooking class lined up with the team at Velas Resorts, courtesy of the lovely Lupita.

One thing this crisis has showed me is that our supplier relationships are vital to getting the best result, not only for our business but for our valued clients and colleagues.

Proactive support

Last week, I received a call from Farzana Dobbs of Travel Gallery just to see if we were all OK. We shared stories of our challenges so far and, while chatting, she mentioned we have a honeymoon booking coming up in August and that, in her opinion, it was better to change it now to ensure our clients get the best possible experience.

I’d had this booking in the back of my mind and knew it was coming up, but to actually have someone proactively contact me and be thinking of the client means a lot.

We spoke to the client and they appreciated our advice and requested to swap to next year. Within 72 hours, we had the new itinerary, honoured at the same hotel rates, and with two of the hotel rooms upgraded without a penny more to pay.

“We can get in touch with them whenever we need to; there is a person who remembers and knows your client; and that person is also negotiating and supporting you on every booking.”

To me, this shows what excellent relationships Farzana and Travel Gallery have with their suppliers, and demonstrates that they have our clients’ best interests at heart.

The client couldn’t believe how simple the whole process had been made for her, and sent us some gleaming feedback.

One thing that has stood out in this crisis is the importance of using smaller tour operators. The benefit to me is that we can get in touch with them whenever we need to; there is a person who remembers and knows your client; and that person is also negotiating and supporting you on every booking. You are not just another booking reference to them.

I for one shall be supporting these suppliers more in the future, post-pandemic, and service such as Farzana’s has highlighted to me why we use so many independent tour operators that are part of Aito.

Unhelpful stance

But for every good story there is also a challenge. I do think some operators need to reassess their processes and how they work with agents. I know it’s a tough period we’re in – and we’re all in this together – but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.

“I do think some operators need to reassess their processes and how they work with agents. I know it’s a tough period we’re in – and we’re all in this together – but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”

I contacted a mainstream European operator earlier in the week to ask for some help on transferring a deposit because of a balance-due date. They flatly refused, quoting terms and conditions. That is not helpful to anyone at the moment, and these are the kind of companies that will be remembered within the trade for all the wrong reasons.

One thing I’ve definitely learnt is that relationships are key in a crisis.


SHUTTERSTOCK-summer--hols

My plea to operators: Shift balance dates

We are coming into peak balance-due season and clients are not wanting to pay. Quite rightly, in my eyes. We all know there is a big cloud hanging over the coming months and we don’t know if July and August will even go ahead.

My plea with operators is that they extend the balance dates to be much closer to departure, and show flexibility. I know it’s not always that easy, not least with airlines. But please, where you haven’t issued tickets, negotiate with suppliers, so we are not cancelling bookings at loss of deposit – and creating more judgement on our industry.