Jet2holidays’ head of trade says agents have been forced by the Covid-19 pandemic to turn from being salespeople to administrators and must be allowed to get back to what they do best.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Alan Cross said agents needed to be proactive and engage their customers to come back into the high street.

He said Jet2holidays was also playing its part to get customers back through independent travel agents’ doors.

“Our TV advert mentions independent travel agents. It’s giving the customer the choice to walk down the high street and go in an agency, and is encouraging them to do so,” he said. “Come September we’ll have introduced the high street independent travel agent finder into our direct website, and no mainstream tour operator that I know has actually done that before.

Cross said a concerted effort was needed from local government, councils and agents themselves.

“Local governments and local councils need to do stuff to encourage people into the high street again, maybe offer free parking for three months or six months, and maybe encourage more al fresco possibilities.

“Why can’t a travel agent put up a couple of tables and chairs outside their shop?” he added.

Jackie Steadman, owner of Travel Time World, said: “We’re fortunate that we have a tiny patio at the front of the office, and [staff] got the table and chairs out and the flags and banners, and they were really positive, talking to people about travel. Everybody wants to travel. It’s just when and where to.”.

She added: “We’ve also been very, very proactive over the last 10-15 years; going out into the market. We take a market stall, we’ve got our own gazeebo, we do sports events, we sponsor golf competitions, we sponsor cricket clubs. So we’re always out there because I think you have to get out. You cannot sit back and wait for somebody to keep walking into your office or your shop.”

Cross said: “I just wish there was more travel agents like Jackie out there – getting out of the high street and into the community. We’ve been preaching that to travel agents for years and it’s great to hear somebody that’s experienced it.

“Anybody that sits back in any shop, in any industry, and thinks they’ve got a right for the customer to walk through the door is wrong. You’ve got to be proactive whether on the high street, whether you’re homeworker, regardless where you are.”

Cross insisted Tui’s announcement that it is to shut 166 branches on the high street was an opportunity for good independents.

“I certainly hope the staff do get re-employed elsewhere within Tui. But at the end of the day, it’s a great opportunity for the independent travel agent,” he said. “I hope they come out fighting and make everything about that a positive for them, because in certain instances, they will now be the only travel agent on the high street – so go for it.”