Tui Travel's Kathryn Ward says rolling up the sleeves to give new year trading a boost seems to have worked, but travel agents must continue to evolve to remain relevant
Despite the snow disruption that made it hard for some people to get to the high street, January sales got off to a great start across the industry.
January is traditionally a very busy time, with customers keen to take advantage of all the great early booking offers.
In 2012 there were very few last-minute deals left for August and a lot of people missed out, so this year we’re seeing more demand from families booking early.
In the midst of the big chill, we held our annual ‘Back to the Floor' event in our shops.
This year, around 200 of our head office colleagues descended on shops across the country.
The day gives those people who are not close to the sharp end in their daily jobs the chance to see what it’s really like, talk to customers and generally get involved in the January buzz.
Everyone rolls up their sleeves and many choose to wear our uniform for the day.
Likewise, our staff really value the chance to meet people from head office and find out more about what they do.
Overall it’s a great event and a ‘must do’ for any business that wants to stay close to its customers and appreciate the diverse roles that people across the business play.
One thing that’s definitely been pushing sales across the industry this year is all the travel advertising on TV.
It’s interesting to see the way different brands chose to push their messages. There’s a real split between those that choose to promote their brand to inspire customers and those that focus on harder pricing messages.
Our TV ad is more brand‑focused, but we have used our Blue Cross Sale and print advertising campaigns to drive home sales messages. I think it’s important to strike a balance, but the more noise that’s out there the more people will think about holidays.
The news of more high street casualties in January was very sad.
It is a reminder to the rest of us in retail not to underestimate the pace of change. It is vital to keep ahead of the game and make sure that your business is still relevant and in touch with what today’s consumer wants.
Travel agents have made some progress at moving with the times and still offer a service that is valued by consumers, but we need to continue modernising the experience.
We need to add value, expert advice and adapt to the fact that today’s customers are researching and interacting across many channels before they buy.
I think that the role of the retail shop, both in the travel industry and outside it, will change beyond recognition over the next five years. It’s our job to make sure we keep ahead of it and keep jobs safe.
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