January is traditionally a busy time for booking travel, with customers eager to secure their next holiday and ‘bag a bargain’. But for many agents the Peaks period can bring with it an unrealistic pressure to ‘perform’.
Mass discounting and promises to “beat any quote out there” are making it increasingly difficult for agents to secure sales in what is already a very competitive market.
Jenny Jackson of Holidays Please echoes these frustrations saying that trying to compete with the likes of British Airways and Virgin Holidays, which only sell direct to customers, is proving near impossible.
“We are all working towards the same goal of filling capacity but when we can’t get close to their prices it devalues us. We need to be able to help eachother.”
Anneka Bones of Southern Cross Travel, agrees that the issue of price matching is heightened at this time of year.
“It’s the usual problem that travel agents face but it seems even more pressurised in Peaks as everyone wants quotes ASAP.”
She adds:“My collegue Liz spent hours on a last minute luxury tailor-made package for Australia on Monday to which she got no reply. When she chased the client for their thoughts they said they had booked elsewhere for a price that we could simply not match.”
There’s also the argument that a frenzied approach to getting the best deal can come at a cost of service level and expectation.
Tips for the trade
So how can agents manage the pressure that comes with Peaks?
Karen Allen, who recently retired from Aspen Travel, says her top tip is to get as much information out of the customer as you can by asking leading questions. She says: “Establish a budget and ask if they have had any previous quotes. If it’s an email or Facebook enquiry, don’t start until you’re happy you have all of the facts.”
She also urges agents to be open and honest with clients about time scales. “Don’t give clients an estimated time of when they will have the quote by, explain to the customer just how busy this time of year is. If you get the feeling someone is wasting your time and then get an enquiry where the customer knows what they want, get that sorted first.”
Jo Greenwood Richards of Tivoli Travel advises agents to try and speak to clients directly and work through flight availability on the phone. Then send over maybe three quotes to get a feel of what they like and don’t like.
The overwhelming message is to take a relaxed approach to Peaks and not put too much pressure on the first few months of the year.
“There’s a lot of perceived pressure to have an incredibly busy January/February and for some, it just doesn’t work out that way,” says one Travel Counsellor. “A year is made up of 12 months, so what happens in the first two is rarely a reflection of what will happen over the following ten!”
To summarise, Anneka suggests taking a break away from the phone or computer and writing a list of priorities. If you tick off something on the list then that is a small win. “We are, after all, only human and if you lose a booking or two, at least you’ve kept your sanity!”