//Interview: Julia Lo Bue-Said
summer holiday bookings

Interview: Julia Lo Bue-Said

The CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership on the green shoots of recovery.

How are you supporting your agents?
To help our members with their preparations for reopening, we’ve created marketing assets and different types of signage for both shops and offices. These include digital assets for use on social media, websites and in store/office TV screensavers which will promote members’ reopening to clients. In-store signage such as door stickers, floor stickers and posters have also been created to remind and encourage clients about hygiene procedures and social distancing measures that are in place. We’ve compiled a list of preferred suppliers and negotiated discounted rates for relevant PPE equipment that can be used in both retail units and offices, such as protective screens, hand sanitiser stands and signage. Members will also receive the latest government advice and guidance, to cover topics such as cleaning and hygiene processes and recommendations for spacing within offices and retail units as and when this information is updated. All of these can be accessed through their dedicated Covid-19 content hub on their members’ extranet.

In addition to this, to support our members when it comes to selling, we’ve created a ‘Hot Offers’ Facebook page which is a closed group for members where we share the best offers available from our supplier members. Members can then use these offers for their own websites, email and social media channels. We’re also in the process of rolling out an appointment booking app for our members so that agents and their customers can easily book in pre-arranged appointments to manage footfall in shops.

What will travel retail look like going forward?
In the short term, a lot of our members will be operating a closed door policy so they can manage the number of people in their shops as the UK eases out of lockdown.

We know that now more than ever, consumers will realise the value of a travel agent and be more inclined to book with one. A recent consumer survey that we conducted found that as a result of Covid-19 two thirds of Brits now plan to book through a travel agent. Throughout this pandemic, what people have really wanted is to pick up the phone and speak to a human being, who can help them with their booking and offer relevant support and guidance. The survey also told us that now more than ever a younger demographic will be looking to book with travel agents so we need to support members with accessing this market and also engaging with them in different ways.

Are your agents reporting any booking trends?
Initially, a lot of consumers were planning their trips for summer 2021, but we are seeing holidays being booked for winter 2020 and even as early as September 2020 which is really encouraging. A lot of this is Europe and the Med, but we’re also seeing US bookings. A lot of the holidays being booked are longer in duration, with the return of the two-week holiday and an increase in the average spend. Members are becoming more comfortable with promoting offers which are gaining a lot of interaction from customers, so we believe that there is definitely a pent up demand and a will to travel.

Do you think the government has done enough to support the trade?
No, they have not done enough to support the trade or the travel industry as a whole. Other industry associations and I have written to the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Transport Minister imploring them to revoke the 14-day quarantine measures on arrivals in the UK and to reassess the indefinite FCO ban on travel. We requested the urgent implementation of international travel corridors and suggested a ‘wish-list’ of destinations in order to kick start the travel industry, but no action has been taken.

What changes would you like to see operators put in place in the case of a second wave of Covid-19?
Many suppliers that we work with have done a fantastic job throughout the crisis at communicating regularly with agents on what’s happening in their businesses and managed the refund process efficiently which has been invaluable. The dynamic of the tourism industry will change and I think that the companies that offer a more transparent service will be the ones to ultimately come out the other side in a stronger position. Strong partnerships have been key throughout this and as we start to emerge these will become more important than ever before for both us and our members.

The July 2020 issue of ABTA Magazine is out now. In this issue, we consider the impact of two recent government announcements: the reopening of the hospitality sector and the proposed formation of ‘air bridges’. With these policies likely to encourage Britons to travel domestically and to select European countries, can we finally see the green shoots of recovery? Nathaniel Cramp explores Cornwall’s lesser-known beauty spots; Jenny Southan of Globetrender shares her insights into travel in the age of Covid-19; while, the Jamaican tourism board tell us the story of the country’s reopening. Click on the cover to read the magazine in full.