Please don’t underestimate the value of the much-loved people in our industry, says  Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley

The famous Frank Sinatra lyrics “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again” seem fairly appropriate at the moment. Since March, this attitude has had to be the norm, and without the many wonderful travel reps in the industry, we wouldn’t have got by. So I’m dedicating this column to some of my heroes of the travel trade.

Let’s start with the saga of a recent honeymoon booking. A gentleman asked if I could help find his daughter and new son-in-law a last-minute honeymoon. We agreed on Barbados, and we spent a couple of days going back and forth narrowing down their flight and accommodation preferences.

Then, of course, the fun began, as no holiday is straightforward any more. Hurdles to overcome included Covid testing requirements, finding somewhere they could get it done in time in the UK and getting on top of the Covid rules in Barbados.

Helping hands

Other considerations included finding out what protocols would be in place at the all-inclusive hotel, what restaurants would be open and what excursions could be done.

With so much to check, I was delighted to benefit from some hand-holding from Stuba’s Anna Hawkins. Given such a complicated late booking, her assistance was invaluable and I ended up booking all the elements through her because she was so helpful.

The clients too were so grateful that we were on hand to answer all their questions. They wanted the honeymoon to be special, of course, and trusted us to ensure every aspect went to plan.

“With so much to check, I was delighted to benefit from some hand-holding from Stuba’s Anna Hawkins; given such a complicated late booking, her assistance was invaluable.”

Unfortunately, one thing we could not avert was the groom having to have his appendix out a week before they were due to fly. So, after all our efforts, the honeymoon had to be postponed – but again, my thanks to Anna for her help in getting it all rebooked.

My next heroine is Sarah Hillier of Olympic Holidays. I’d had a group enquiry for a holiday in Zante for 15 lads and Olympic gave us a brilliant quote with excellent service. But by the time we’d got all the names and the deposits and went back to book, the prices were so different it felt like we would lose the booking. However, Sarah stepped in and helped us way beyond the norm, so we got the booking at a price pretty close to the original rate.

We’d also be very lost without Alyshia Bartlett of MSC Cruises. She has held our hand since day one for a booking of 1,000 passengers on a special group departure, and has helped us rebook many of the trips planned for 2021 which wouldn’t have been possible without her.

Then there’s Darren Mussell at Riviera Travel. He’s swapped groups over with ease and speed, while Gary Bates (my son-in-law) has created some great social media posts for us.

“We’d also be very lost without Alyshia Bartlett of MSC Cruises; she has held our hand since day one for a booking of 1,000 passengers on a special group departure.”

Sharon Angove, at Titan, has helped us get refunds for a couple of tricky clients quicker than normal, while Natalie Reed from Crystal Cruises has been empathetic when dealing with a large client refund.

So, these are just a few of our travel trade heroes, all of whom we need now more than ever. Please don’t underestimate the value of these much-loved people in our industry.


Selling travel over Zoom? We’re converted

I really didn’t think our clients would be interested in a virtual event. One regular told me about a Zoom presentation he’d seen of the Shamwari game reserve in South Africa, where he’d watched live a lion kill and saw cheetahs and giraffes in a session aired from a ranger’s vehicle. My client recommended we do something similar. So, with this in mind, and with the help of Jon Knight of AmaWaterways, we gave it a go.

Who would have thought that, with all the social restrictions in place, we could talk to more than 80 people and engage with them to try and sell them a holiday? I’d love to hear from any other reps out there who would like to do a similar event. At Ponders, we’re converted.

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