By Donna Waddington of Travel Counsellors
Forecasts for 2012 said it was going to be a great year for the UK.
Some of us were optimistic despite the continued recession. Money was still tight, but the Queen’s Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics brought renewed patriotism.
The prospect of a great summer could have been bad news for the trade – surely people would stay at home and holiday in the UK. Why go abroad?
But April through to August saw some of the worst weather you could imagine, spurring a demand for last-minute holidays. Capacity was limited and soaring flight costs posed a challenge.
These were frustrating times, but for agents who were prepared to accept the challenge and prove their worth, it brought opportunities.
Customers gave up on the internet and once again looked to us for guidance. Indeed, my TV debut on BBC Breakfast came about only after BBC researchers were shocked to struggle to find their own holidays.
September arrived and, with a sigh, I rejoiced that I had survived July and August, and normality could return. However, September saw the demand continue.
Couples with no school holiday commitments decided to get away before autumn set in, while some clients who had been away wanted another holiday. We were still faced with limited capacity and so the challenge continued.
A lot of clients wanted to book for next year. Some had refused to pay the inflated summer costs this year and did not want to be disappointed again. Most just wanted something to look forward to. I joked that I was only booking for next week or next year.
City breaks were also in high demand, London being the most popular. Once the Olympics had ended, there was high demand for a weekend break in the capital.
With the promise of the best viewing of the northern lights in years, bookings also doubled for Iceland, Norway and the Arctic.
As the recession continues we have to accept that we cannot control it. We can, however, embrace the situation and choose not to fear it.
Clients have proved they need their holidays more than ever. But money is precious and carefully spent. Travel agents prepared to invest their time and offer their expertise this year have had a chance to either reignite or form new relationships and build trust with their clients.
The introduction of Flight-Plus Atols, which has caused confusion among many customers – and agents! – has also highlighted how agents go above and beyond for their customers.
Now, in October, I am seeing lots of high-value bookings that need planning in advance. This includes honeymooners who can finally price their chosen destination as more operators go on sale for 2013.
Early booking incentives and good availability arm us with the tools to get bookings confirmed. Long gone are the Boxing Day brochure launches.
So let’s keep encouraging our clients to book early so we can all reap the rewards.
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