Members of Aito Agents say service, the personal touch and social interaction mean customers are keen to return to high street shops to book holidays.

A panel of agents at Kickstart – a virtual version of the domestic conference held each January by the agency arm of The Specialist Travel Association (Aito) – urged members to communicate more with customers and be involved in their community.

Martyn Fisher, managing director of Greenstar Travel in Claygate, Surrey, said: “The high street will be very important; people have missed social interaction.

“The high street will come back and small shops will benefit.

“My lesson from 2020 is not to be too corporate – to be more personal.”

Mark Pollard, director of Tony Sheldon Travel in Maidenhead, said the lesson he learned from 2020 was to communicate and keep in touch with the community.

In newsletters, he urges customers to pop by his agency and say hello – and he has been attracting a lot of attention with his puppy, described as a “customer magnet”.

“Agents should be part of their community,” he told the online conference.

More‘Revenge travel’ will be key 2021 trend, Aito Agents told

Aito agents urged to target ‘positive pioneers’

Aito hammers government as more countries ban travel from UK

‘Going beyond Google’ is key to consumer confidence

Sandra Mutter, director of Andara Travel in Solihull, said: “We are being more proactive and writing to clients to highlight certain trips, being more personal.

“We’re very visible in the local village, talking to people in Sainsbury’s about travel.”

Session moderator Ted Wake, director of Kirker Holidays, said: “Our customers are looking for the ability to speak to an individual who can take responsibility for looking after you.”

Gemma Antrobus (Haslemere Travel), Aito Agents chair, said: “The comeback will be better than the setback.”

She said she was very proud of the fact that no Aito agents have gone out of business, adding: “It is a phenomenal achievement.”