The Personal Travel Agents at Co‑operative Travel has urged its homeworkers to revive their passion for travel and look for the positives as research predicts a rise in demand for traditional agents.

At the group’s eighth annual conference, held virtually last week having originally been due to take place in Turkey in May, more than 140 homeworkers were given tips on how to improve the way they work, capitalise on social media and ensure a healthy work-life balance.

A survey of more than 1,000 customers and non-customers by the homeworking division of Midcounties Co-operative Travel suggested 79% of respondents would be more inclined to book with an agent in future due to the impact of Covid-19 on taking an overseas holiday.

The poll, conducted on September 4-11, was presented at the conference, themed ‘revive’. The theme is based on the business’ three-step ‘survive, revive and thrive’ plan to get through the pandemic, said Sheena Whittle, head of the PTAs.

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She said the business was now in its ‘revive’ stage, which involved looking at ways for agents to “create momentum and engage more with customers.”

She encouraged agents to remember why they worked in travel and stay positive.

She said: “You could be forgiven for thinking everything is doom and gloom. Even though we are still in the thick of the pandemic, there are still pockets of opportunity.

“It’s about trying to get everyone to look at the possibilities that are out there and not take their eye off the ball.

“Our survey showed significant pent-up demand. A lot of agents have got a really good year shaping up for next year.”

Homeworkers were encouraged to be visible among customers and to use social media, the group’s biggest source for bookings in March. Normally social media is third below repeat customers and referrals.

Whittle said: “There is a huge tidal wave of communication on where you can travel to. We talked at conference about how to be efficient, to let people know where they can and can’t go, and how to harness social media. We encouraged agents to do live updates with different messages and approaches.”

 

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Agents were also advised to “reset the clock” and section up their day so they do not spend hours on refunds and have a portion of “positive” daily work that “makes their heart sing”, such as talking to customers and taking forward bookings.

Following on from the conference, the group has set up eight weekly virtual ‘class huddles’.

These virtual chats are split into the year agents joined the PTAs and enable agents to share experiences and help each other out. These will be led by a member of the central support team.

Whittle added: “Nobody should be going through this alone was our message at conference and what we are trying to do is get all agents together into huddles so they can create these relationships and share what works and what doesn’t.

“Our PTAs are generally weathering the storm. Some of them are getting part-time jobs and doing what they need to survive but levels of optimism about the future are strong. We have got the biggest pot of forward commissions that we have ever had in the business.”