Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Spring Forum: Consumer demand, refund credit notes and trade sales teams were among topics discussed by guest speakers

Hays tips ‘hybrid’ retail return Lucy Huxley

Hays Travel expects a “hybrid” return to the high street, with some shops reopening and others staying closed when non-essential retail is allowed to reopen on April 12. The UK’s largest retail travel

agency revealed a 50:50 split between staff who want to go back to stores and offices and those who would prefer to remain working from home. Chair Dame Irene Hays told the

Future of Travel Spring Forum: “All of the scenarios have been tried and tested, and we’re ready to go. But we wouldn’t take that decision this far out.” She said Hays Travel had the

combination of some places open and some places not,” she said. “We’ve got every scenario, from

opening all of them 100% of the time to [maybe] having a window when they open, because the staff are doing a fantastic job working from home. “We’ve done things while we’ve

flexibility to open shops “bespoke around which airports may be open and flying to which destinations”, and praised her staff ’s “absolutely awesome” flexibility. “So my sense would be it will

probably be a hybrid; it might be a

been working from home that we’ve never done before, in terms of opening hours and flexibility and the way we transact with people around videoconferencing and personal support. The staff have been tremendous. And we will let them know in sufficient time.” Hays noted: “The appetite of the younger [staff] to go back to work or

to go back into the office is greater [than among older staff].” Hays Travel has already brought

200 staff out of furlough to deal with increased enquiries since the prime minister’s roadmap announcement last month. Some staff remain on furlough and Hays said others were still working on government contracts. She said: “Obviously, that’s been

very helpful for us. The staff have been fantastic in helping with that.” How long that might continue

depends on demand, Hays said, adding that it was her “intention” to get all staff back to travel sales as soon as possible “depending on the model we go for after April 12”.

Dame Irene reveals need to react fast to traveller trends

Lucy Huxley

Social media ‘influencers’ carry more weight than government ministers in persuading customers about travel, according to the boss of Hays Travel. Speaking at Travel Weekly’s

Future of Travel Spring Forum, chair Dame Irene Hays said travel had become much more “fashionable and fast-moving”. “People watch what is current,

and what’s trending and what the influencers are highlighting at a given time,” she said. “Then you see a flurry of enquiries.”

6 25 MARCH 2021 People watch what’s

trending and what the influencers are highlighting – then you see a rush of enquiries

She said Hays Travel was able to

react to trends because it has its own tour operation. “When you can control that

within the business – and because we’re a very flat structure at Hays Travel; we don’t have any hierarchy really – you can see where that

Dame Irene Hays

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Lucy Huxley

demand is and respond much more quickly,” said Hays. She said various comments by

government ministers about whether it is legal to book holidays influences consumer sentiment and behaviour “to an extent”, but added: “I don’t think it has as much of an impact as the social influencers do, or what has most recently been shown on TV. “What we’re seeing is a vastly more

fast-moving market around appetite than ever before. Travel is becoming a fashionable product, a must-have. It’s influenced by which celebrity is seen where, or what is popular.” Hays recalled: “Twenty years ago,

you’d get a brochure which would come out at the start of the season for the next six months, or sometimes even a year. Now, the time frame around responding to customer appetite is vastly faster than ever before.” Hays said the firm’s in-house tour

operation also enabled it to look after customers better. She said a ‘peace of mind’ guarantee introduced last year had helped reduce the problems faced in 2020 in terms of cancellations and amendments. Revealing the tour operation was “still relatively small”, Hays said its

future scope would depend on demand. i Get Social, page 25

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