Saga Holidays began selling via the trade last year. Lucy Huxley found out how the new sales tack is faring while visiting Saga Sapphire with a group of agents
Saga Holidays signed up to be sold through Tui’s nationwide retail network last month. It was a significant milestone for the over-50s operator which, until last October, had never in its 63-year history sold its holidays and cruises through agents.
Director of marketing operations James Gambling said: “We’re pleased about it. We’re working with most of the independent groups and consortia, and also with Cook and the Co-ops, but we wanted to get into Thomson shops.
“Our challenge is to communicate what we do to all those stores. We’ve sent brochures and a welcome pack to every one about why they should sell Saga to their clients. Tui owns loads of its own product and specialist companies, but we’ve got some pretty unique holidays on offer, plus some USPs, which hopefully will appeal.”
Saga has spent the past nine months courting the trade. It has three sales people on the road and has attended every consortia conference.
As well as having introduced sales incentives and trade marketing campaigns, Saga is also running fam trips. Pricing transparency ensures that rates are the same through all sales channels, with no discounts for direct bookings.
The sales reps report to agency sales manager Sharon Moore, who’s been at Saga for seven years, after holding trade sales roles with P&O Cruises and Leisure Direction.
“Agents were extremely welcoming when we made the switch,” she said. “Many approached us with open arms, asking where to sign.
“But we also visit shops all the time where staff have no idea that we’re no longer just direct-sell. So we have a lot more to do.”
Saga will launch an online agent training course next month to supplement its in-store training.
Both Moore and Gambling said the key things to convey to agents were the full range of its holidays, from Europe to long-haul tours –
Uzbekistan and Ethiopia are new this year – as well as hotel stays, cruises on its two ships Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl, plus the “special touches” it offers.
“We offer free transfers on our cruises and long-haul holidays – private within 75 miles of the port or airport and shared within 250 miles,” said Gambling. “It gives customers peace of mind, as all they have to do is pack and then have nothing to worry about. We also offer travel insurance in the price.
“The service element and care we offer is what makes the difference with our holidays.
“We’re not condescending, overbearing or overpowering, but if you want us, we’re there.
“Our challenge is to get agents to sell us for the first time. Once they’ve done it, they’ll see the service we offer and how we look after their clients. Then they will book us again and again. We have a repeat rate of 80%.”
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