The travel agency group's first overseas conference saw technology, product and suppliers discussed. Juliet Dennis reports from the Algarve in Portugal
Technology suite: Holmes unveils range of new tools
The Co-operative Travel Consortium is rolling out a suite of technology tools including a text messaging service, online payments and a customer relationship management system (CRM).
Head of consortium Alison Holmes, who unveiled the technology at the group’s first overseas conference, said: “We need to improve our technology offering to members, so that will be our key objective for next year.”
There would be a “minimal extra charge” for the tools, Holmes said.
The text service will mean members can send messages to clients, for example, to let them know their balance is due. The cost to send will be 4.7p per text.
Members’ clients will be able to pay for bookings online via a new Manage My Booking tool, which will also allow payments in instalments.
Holmes said: “This is a great option for customers who don’t want to go into the branch to pay and want to pay quickly. Customers expect to be able to pay online and doing so in instalments is becoming more popular.”
In addition, Holmes revealed details of the CRM system, which will, for example, allow members to run reports to see which consultants are taking the most bookings and which holidays are selling best, and plan accordingly.
Holmes said: “The CRM system will help agents understand the demands of their customers. We believe it will be really useful.
Next spring, members’ existing front-end selling systems will be replaced and updated by the V-Tarsc system, compatible with tablets and mobile phones, while a business-to-business mobile website will also launch.
Next year’s conference will be held at the all-inclusive Kipriotis Village Resort in Kos, Greece, from September 28 to October 1.
Social media: Top tips for boosting bookings online
Agents were advised to boost bookings via social media by posting at the right time of day, focusing on one channel and using picture-led content.
Bruce Martin, founder of social media agency Ginger Juice, gave The Co-operative Travel Consortium members practical tips on how to increase conversions.
He urged agents to focus on just one social media site, such as Facebook, to interact with clients.
Instead of posting first thing in the morning when most people are busy, he suggested putting posts up later in the day. “Avoid Saturday day time and mornings,” he added.
Content is critical to stop users scrolling past the post. “Use great images, avoid long text and be clear. Check what it looks like on a mobile as that’s where most people see your posts,” he added.
Posting funny, emotional, personal, daft or topical information or videos will catch customers’ attention, he added, as well as giving your insight on a destination.
Ginger Juice worked with PR World Travel to produce six advertisements on Facebook over 10 days at a cost of £125. It reached 18,000 local people and resulted in 2,000 people liking or sharing the posts and 110 on-page enquiries.
Jet2holidays: Agents told 'ignore firm at your peril'
Members of The Co-operative Travel Consortium have been advised to ignore Jet2holidays at their peril following its “phenomenal” growth.
Jet2holidays is on course to become Midcounties Co‑operative’s largest supplier as it launches a significant programme out of Birmingham, according to Alistair Rowland, the group’s general manager for specialist retail.
He told members of The Co-operative Travel Consortium they should be making the most
of the new local capacity offered by Jet2holidays.
“If you are not maximising that opportunity out of Birmingham airport, you should be,” he said.
“If you are not hanging off its coat-tails, you should be.”
Rowland admitted he was impressed by the operator’s growth, describing it as a “compelling” supplier to work with.
He said: “Jet2holidays is a really big ticket for us and its growth is phenomenal. Suddenly you get 14 new routes and 600,000 new seats in your heartland. It feels like tour operating of old; I have never seen account management as high-quality and as much of it.
“It’s certainly becoming our biggest operator. From an agent’s point of view there are no complaints, a £60 deposit and almost free availability.
“It’s really compelling.”
Rowland admitted growth of sales for Jet2holidays had affected the growth of Midcounties’ own Co-operative Holidays brand, launched early this year. “Although we are pleased with the progress of our own bedstock and tour operating programme, what has stopped rapid growth of Co-operative Holidays is Jet2holidays,” he said.
Sales of Jet2holidays through consortium members increased by 53% for summer 2016, just “a couple of hundred passengers off Thomas Cook”, according to head of consortium Alison Holmes.
For winter 2016, Jet2holidays’ sales are 168% up on this time last year and 96% up for summer 2017.
City breaks: Midcounties starts new programme
Midcounties Co-operative has introduced a Co‑operative Holidays city breaks programme for its high street agents, homeworkers and consortium members.
The programme of short breaks to 26 cities in Europe and the US follows the launch of Co-operative Holidays, the group’s dynamic packaging tour operation, at the start of this year.
More than half the beds sold under Atol sales are
Co-operative Rooms and there are plans to launch a consumer website.
One consortium member, World Travel Lounge in Cleveleys, Blackpool, has been given the go-ahead to use The Co-operative Holidays brand on its shop fascia to encourage customers to book.
It is the first time the brand has been used by a member in this way.
Managing director David McDonald said: “It just gives people confidence to book knowing we are part of a bigger Co-op group. It has helped us gain bookings.”
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