Kathryn Ward, retail director at Tui UK, writes the first of her regular columns for Travel Weekly.
I think it’s fair to say we approached January with some trepidation. There was a slow start to Christmas sales on the high street, and then a sudden rush before Christmas, so we thought it might mean a slow start to our turn-of-year sale.
However, January turned out to be much, much better than expected, and we hit our sales targets. In fact, straight after Christmas it felt as if there was a real urgency for consumers to put down a deposit for a holiday, during our sale. This is how it always used to be in January but we hadn’t felt this same urgency for a number of years, so it was an exciting time for our agents and shops up and down the country.
I think our adverts definitely contributed to this success. The First Choice advert particularly went down really well with our customers, with lots of them mentioning it when they came in to our shops. It certainly helped having the song Good Feeling from the ad at number one and on the radio non-stop during January.
First Choice becoming the ‘Home of All-Inclusive’ for this summer has also been a real success for retail. Sales are up year on year, and having our brands so strongly differentiated from one another has made it easier for agents to sell the holidays to customers. All-inclusive has continued to be a massive trend for us this year, particularly among families for whom having entertainment, drinks and snacks included makes a massive difference.
Another trend we’ve noticed is how customers are researching their holidays more before they come into the store, and using our different booking channels interchangeably. They are looking at our websites, review sites such as TripAdvisor, and even travel blogs to get inspiration before coming into the shop to discuss it all with an agent and book it. At the same time, other customers are coming in to pick up brochures before going home to research more before booking online.
Shops and web co-exist
Popping into your local travel agent on the high street will not become a thing of the past. Both channels co-exist and perform well in the same key area. Our web share in the southeast is 7% higher than our average web share, but it’s actually our biggest region for retail sales and accounts for 31% of our total shop sales. Our online sales would also be lower if it wasn’t for a retail presence, as our data shows that 20% of customers who visited one of our retail shops ended up booking with us on the web.
I feel confident that despite the challenging economic conditions consumers do still want to go away on holiday and are looking to agents to help them book their holidays.
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