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Published on Friday, May 22, 2020

Midcounties homeworkers report encouraging new bookings

More than half of all bookings made by Midcounties Co-operative homeworking agents last week were from new enquiries, not from rebookings.

The consortium's homeworking division, The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, said the figure reached 57% last week and has stayed over 50% for the past four weeks.

The division has also reported that social media took the highest share of bookings for the first time ever, for four consecutive weeks, with Facebook proving to be by far the most popular channel.

For the week ending April 26 social media took a 42% share of bookings and the percentage rose to 50% over the four weeks.

"We're reinforcing to our agents that they should balance caring for their customers who need re-booking with keeping their advertising going to find new customers. Despite the current situation, there are still customers out there," said Sheena Whittle, head of The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel.

"Keenly priced short break deals in April 2021 and at Easter 2021 have done really well, as well as more luxury 'bucket list' 2021 offers, which is encouraging to see.

"Each new booking, as well as every re-book, is a precious gift right now, so we are urging colleagues across the industry to work collaboratively to ensure we save every booking and quickly wrap up every new enquiry into a sale. It's something we appreciate can be a challenge when many tour operators and airlines are operating at reduced staffing levels.

"In the early weeks of the lockdown, we advised our agents to focus more on helpful, informative content when engaging with their customers via social media, as opposed to holiday offers and deals. However, in recent weeks we have encouraged them to begin posting about holiday deals again and resulting in a very positive response.

"We're aware that many of our customers are taking a hit financially at the moment and we need to be sensitive to that when we engage with them on social media, but there does seem to be an appetite for holiday deals as customers dream of their post-lockdown adventures."

To prepare agents for the upturn in sales again, the group says it has been encouraging them to do tasks that often get put on the back burner.

The #BusinessSpringClean tool kit of tasks includes refreshing information on website pages, a sweep of customer databases, refreshing plans for local marketing activity and social media training, such as using Facebook Stories and Lives for marketing purposes.

The management team has also been working to keep agents well-connected via a virtual office with initiatives such as Tik Tok Tuesdays, Wednesday Walks, pub quizzes and the 'virtual bar' opening at 4.30pm on Fridays.

It says all these initiatives have been well supported throughout the lockdown.

Whittle added: "Let's be honest, if you're a travel agent at the moment you are working long hours to care for your customers and often with no financial reward. It's really important to take a break, to focus on something that's not work to maintain your mental wellbeing.

"We all love this industry, and in times like this we may question why, but our passion and dedication to our customers, and travelling ourselves, means we are a resilient bunch. We'll be working hard within the legislation and guidelines to get back to enabling our customers, and ourselves, to adventure around the globe again."

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