Advantage Travel Partnership is urging its members to prepare now for Abta and Atol licensing renewals in September.

Kelly Cookes, leisure director at Advantage Travel Partnership, said the consortium has issued update videos offering advice from operations director Paul Nunn, and Heather Haggis, head of financial services, to help members prepare their finances and forecasts for regulators and bond providers.

Alongside the issues of rebooking clients affected by changes in travel rules for Spain, members are having to prepare cashflow reports and trading updates ahead of the peak renewal period.

Another concern is the contraction in the bonding and insurance markets because of nervousness about the financial well-being of travel companies.

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Nunn admitted there is “doom and gloom” at the moment but urged agents to be proactive by regularly updating their financial and business continuity plans, and preparing for two or three scenarios.

“Once we’re through the renewals, people are thinking about the next six months and preparing for a steady increase in bookings,” said Cookes.

She said there had been “green shoots of confidence” in July but the imposition of quarantine on those returning from Spain, along with changes in Foreign Office advice, meant that optimism faded away.

“It created another wave of work and a ripple effect on confidence,” she said.

Advantage is working with suppliers and tourist boards and looking at promoting alternative destinations and diversifying the range of products available.

It has already boosted the range of domestic holidays that members can offer to clients and is running training courses with Silver Travel Advisor to help staff sell to mature holidaymakers.

“Older travellers are wary but some are keen to travel,” said Cookes.

“But there is trouble with insurance so we are expanding our insurance offering.”

She said sales of UK, Greece and Turkey holidays were popular for summer 2020, while there are “reasonable amounts” of bookings for Spain, Florida and Mexico for 2021.

Customers appear to be booking longer holidays so the average sales value is rising, she added.

Agents are selling a mixture of cruising, long-haul tailor-made trips and ski holidays – and many are hoping that Lapland trips will go ahead this winter, especially if clients have had to cancel summer breaks. River cruising is also continuing to rise in popularity.
To buoy consumer confidence, the consortium is providing members with essential information and updates about destinations.

“It is about education and the experience for customers in destination,” said Cookes.

“We are pushing the message of talking to your travel agent – like Eamonn Holmes says.

“We hope [the current situation] will educate people about bonded, protected holidays.

“They’re not just a package, they can be ski or multi centre holidays.”