Agents scramble to help clients hit by Spain advice

Juliet Dennis

Agents were forced to sort out bookings at a moment’s notice following government rule changes on travel to Spain, leaving many with deflated hopes for the rest of summer. The trade criticised the timing

and logic of quarantine restrictions and Foreign Office advice against non-essential travel to the UK’s biggest market. Agents, many of whom rushed

to contact customers on holiday and due to travel as news broke on

Saturday evening, said clients were now reassessing all overseas trips this summer and autumn. Simon Morgan, chief executive of

Tailor Made Travel, said: “It came as a big surprise, with the worst timing. “We’ve had to readminister

hundreds of bookings, in some cases for the third or fourth time. “Our staff are still smiling but

they’re having a tough time. My eternal optimism is waning.” Amanda Matthews, managing

director of Designer Travel, said all clients were informed by 9pm that evening. “We hope the extra work will

Lloret de Mar

be remembered,” she said. “There is no logic behind the decisions which are being made very quickly, and that’s what is making us deflated.” Premier Travel had a team

working on Sunday to contact overseas clients and those about to travel, and said the impact was more wide-reaching than Spain. Director Paul Waters said: “We’ve

received calls from a big number of clients with future bookings to varying destinations and dates of travel asking ‘what if’ questions. This has put another dent in customer confidence for summer 2020, just as

momentum was starting to build.” Haslemere Travel owner Gemma

Antrobus agreed: “I’ve had clients due to pay September balances rebooking for next year. It’s frustrating.” Pole Travel director Jill Waite

travelled back from Ibiza on Saturday to hear holidaymakers returning hours later faced quarantine. “Last week we were upbeat,” she

said. “People wanted to book. Now you think ‘is it worth booking at all?’ Bailey’s Travel owner Chris Bailey

warned agents were now concerned about “getting to Christmas and still being able to pay the bills”.

Agent Day creates ‘sense of unity’

Travel Weekly reporters

The inaugural National Travel Agent Day (UK) provided a “real sense of unity” for the trade as it continues to deal with the fallout from its biggest-ever challenge, the operator behind it has said. Intrepid Travel came up with

the concept of a UK celebration, mirroring events that already exist in Australia, the US and Canada. It took place on Friday as the

trade worked towards a gradual return of sales, but before the government restricted travel to Spain. Operator members of the

Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (Atas), including Intrepid,

put together a video of thanks to their agent partners (pictured). Cosmos, Globus and Avalon

Waterways emailed their direct customer databases a digital booklet encouraging them to book via agents. Destinations also got involved,

with the Malta Tourism Authority creating an award for travel agent of the year, with a prize including a

Atas members create a video to show their appreciation

three-night city break in Valletta. Intrepid also asked agents to

nominate deserving peers to win a place on a fam trip to Morocco. It was won by Hays Travel apprentice Aaron Petty, who was nominated for achieving a good sales record during the crisis while looking after foster siblings as he worked from home. Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy

Huxley was interviewed by Intrepid chief executive James Thornton. She said she hoped the day would help develop “a better appreciation of our industry” by the government. National Travel Agent Day (UK)

was the brainchild of Intrepid’s EMEA managing director, Zina Bencheikh, who said it “exceeded all expectations”, adding: “Everyone came together and there was a real sense of unity in the industry.” Agent Elizabeth Ryan, of

Unexplored Latitudes, said: “The day gave a lift to all of us agents who are exhausted from dealing with months of cancellations, refunds, rebookings, and long and fruitless phone calls, and still have to find the energy to market without knowing how things will be even this time next year.”

30 JULY 2020 7

PICTURE: Shutterstock

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