Comment: I’m confident this peak selling period will be bigger than ever

If Only general manager Gordon McCreadie shares his positivity for 2023 despite ongoing hurdles

Let me start off by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! It’s so exciting that we’re about to start our first peak booking period in three years with no restrictions or traffic light systems in place.

I have already started planning my first holiday of the year and, hopefully, our customers are doing the same after gaining inspiration from all the travel TV adverts between Christmas and New Year.

I’m confident 2023 peaks will be bigger than ever, despite the numerous challenges we all face as an industry and society, such as inflation, economic pressures and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A recent Abta report showed that only 4% of customers who travelled in 2022 plan to avoid going abroad in 2023 due to the cost-of-living crisis or other issues, with the luxury travel sector even more resilient. This clearly demonstrates that customers still need and crave the holiday experience and either have the cash to fund a high-end booking or will look to cut their spend in different ways rather than give up their travel. That has got to give us optimism as we head into 2023.

It is imperative we explain to customers that waiting for a cheaper deal isn’t worth doing this year, with air capacity still a challenge, in turn driving up prices. The latest Travel Weekly Insight Report found that 43% of people expect to spend more on a holiday in 2023 than in previous years, providing further cause for positivity.

Holiday intentions

At If Only, we have found people tend not to reduce the quality of their holidays – rather, the opposite, with a larger percentage booking premium cabins and higher room categories – but they may reduce costs in other ways. This was noted in the Travel Weekly report, which found customers may consider reducing the number of nights or opting for a second holiday in Europe rather than long‑haul, instead of giving up their holiday or reducing the quality.

We are doing all we can to help agents secure those crucial package bookings and all we can to be as beneficial to you as possible, whether that be by working longer business hours or allowing access to our social media offers, amazing incentives and training. We will soon be launching our new ‘The World is Waiting’ marketing campaign, which will run alongside our ‘Big Agent Thank You’ incentive, offering our biggest-ever enhanced rewards programme to help agents during these tough times, as it’s agents that make our business.

Peaks preparations

Our expanded sales team are ready and waiting to visit you all with our engaging collateral and marketing materials and are on hand to help with your every need this peak booking period, even if it’s just to pop by, make you a cup of tea and do the lunch run!
We have been preparing for peaks for the last six months as we anticipate a strong return, with high pent-up demand particularly for the high-end luxury market, and truly hope all our agent partners have done the same to become ready for peaks.

We have been busy recruiting and training staff to be on the phones in January, to ensure we can fulfil demand, with enquiries being handled until 8pm Monday to Friday and also Saturdays until 5pm.

We have our two new brochures – the Beach Collection and Journeys Collection – that have been launched to help agents convert as many luxury long-haul enquiries as possible, and they will arrive in stores in time for peaks.

We know a crucial amount of business is secured in peaks, with an average of 35% annual turnover done in the first quarter, so we are ready and waiting to help you make 2023 a success.

We are looking forward to working in partnership with agents in peaks and beyond by being a true trade partner which offers market-leading commissions and incentives as well as excellent service and support, and crucially does not directly undercut your price or commission direct. If we can continue to work together, I am confident we will have our best-ever year.

More: Travel Weekly Insight Report

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