Agent Diary: Why old‑fashioned ‘lates’ window cards still draw in passers-by

‘It’s not about the specifics, handwritten lates card scream ‘bargain’, says Hays Travel Gateshead branch manager Colin Burns

Chocolate Hobnobs dipped in toffee yoghurt? Cheese and jam sandwiches? Salami and lemon curd in a croissant? No, I’m not auditioning for Bake Off, these are just a few of the strange food combinations we’ve talked about in the shop recently.

It came about after I watched an episode of The 1970s Supermarket on TV – they’d been discussing how the growing popularity of the package holiday forced supermarkets to change what they stocked as Brits’ tastes broadened after visits to continental Europe.

Some Spanish restaurant owners found themselves branching out by offering traditional fish and chips and serving Carling Black Label alongside their paella

Until then, British food had been very beige. Nobody ate pizza, garlic, peppers, or exotic fruit like pineapple, or even bananas. Unless you were in a fancy restaurant, seafood was deep-fried battered cod and the occasional jar of pickled cockles. Travel really did open our eyes to a whole new world of food and drink.

Of course, it was a two-way thing, and some Spanish restaurant owners found themselves branching out by offering traditional fish and chips and serving Carling Black Label alongside their paella.

Local impact

It was a fantastic time of growth and holiday companies and resorts were out to get their slice of the pie. Today we have to focus more time and effort on how we, both as travellers and an industry, affect the environments we travel to and the impact we might have on them.

This has been highlighted by recent protests in the Canary Islands, where some locals are calling for more control over mass tourism to protect the environment in which they live.

They understand the importance of tourism to their economy but have concerns over water shortages and soaring housing costs as more land is signed over to new hotels.

We have to focus more time and effort on how we, both as travellers and an industry, affect the environments we travel to and the impact we might have on them

It’s not too dissimilar to that of our own tourism hotspots, like the Lake District, where many locals can no longer afford to buy homes in the towns they grew up in as property is turned into holiday accommodation.

Obviously there are two sides to these situations, and finding a solution where locals can live comfortably without risking some of the millions of pounds brought in by mass tourism isn’t easy.

Lates progress

Increases in capacity this summer mean there are some dates and routes that have really needed help to fill, but I don’t think we are quite back to those “stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” days of the 1990s that saw many holiday businesses flounder, and demand is still pretty strong.

So, how is ‘lates’ going for everyone? Are we all hearing lots of, “Have you got any of them cheap cancellation holidays?”

Passers-by often call in saying things like, “I’ve seen that deal in the window for Spain, do you have anything similar for Greece?”

In Gateshead, we’ve stepped back in time to capitalise on this by filling one of our windows with good old‑fashioned lates cards. Written with colourful felt tips, they create interest and urgency, with passers-by often calling in and saying things like, “I’ve seen that deal in the window for Spain, do you have anything similar for Greece?” It’s not really about the specifics, it’s just that a lates card screams ‘bargain’.

Anyway, the other Colin has just come back from lunch with custard creams and a vanilla yoghurt to dip them in, so I’m off to try that…


Fred fam heralds a fjord cruise

A little while ago I wrote that I believed suppliers have a right to expect some return after they have hosted a fam trip. Well, it’s time for me to live up to that expectation, because this week I am lucky enough to be joining a group of agents on a Fred Olsen trip to the Norwegian fjords on board Balmoral. I love a cruise but have never sailed with Fred, so this will be a great opportunity to learn about its product and who I can recommend it to – and of course hopefully increase my personal sales and pass knowledge on to colleagues to help them too. Anchors aweigh!

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