Agents now reaching out to suppliers in role reversal, says Not Just Travel co-founder Steve Witt

This year will be remembered as the year travel was turned on its head – but maybe not in the way you’d think.

Our relationship with suppliers has totally switched around this year – where once they came to us with offers, now it’s us going to them to get more holidays to sell. We’ve seen a huge consumer demand.

Let’s look at this shift in the travel dynamic. Suppliers used to come to us with offers or holidays and we would look at them and decide if we wanted to work together and send out the relevant information to our network of hundreds of homeworking travel consultants. It was a good system. But currently, with so many suppliers furloughing staff and therefore having a reduced workforce, they can’t come to us in the way they used to – they simply don’t have the time or resources.

So, we have been switching the dynamic and saying, ‘OK, we’ll come to you. What offers do you have, what are your deals, how can we make this process as easy for you as possible when you’re on reduced staff?’

We have our network of homeworking travel consultants who have holidaymakers wanting to book. People still want holidays; the desire is still there, although behaviours have changed. We will see more of that change as we go into 2021. For example, we are seeing the trend that holidaymakers are either booking further in advance – looking to the end of 2021 and 2022 for big blow-out vacations and weddings, or they are booking their holiday time off work and then the week or a few days before departure they are asking questions like: ‘Right, where can we go next week? Where is open? Where do I have to quarantine? What insurance covers me if I need to get back?’

Another trend we have noticed is that people are still booking cruises – in fact, we are currently one of the top sellers of MSC Cruises’ short-break packages from Southampton. Reading the news headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that cruising was dead, but that’s simply not true.

With Covid fatigue setting in as we head into the winter, everyone wants something to look forward to. The desire to travel and have that sense of freedom and autonomy is still there, so we’re going to suppliers and saying – we are here for you, tell us about your offers and deals and let’s work out how we can work closer together.

That’s why we set up our Virtual Supplier Partner event on November 5 to say to the industry, ‘We are here, we’re ready to sell holidays for you, look at what we have planned for 2021, it’s not all doom and gloom’. Let’s work together and create a new way to sell travel.

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