Holiday Best poised to roll out booking portal to trade

New start-up tour operator Holiday Best has pledged to roll out an online booking portal to 450 registered travel agents in the next six weeks.

The operator launched to consumers in July last year and began discussions with the trade in the autumn, with an initial focus on Turkey, one of its key destinations.

The operator, which has an Atol for 81,000 passengers in its first year, promises ‘real package holidays’ at keen prices, including transfers and reps in resort.

It has exclusive flights with Turkish airline Southwind Airlines out of regional airports and key hubs.

Chief marketing officer John Milburn, former homeworking and marketing director at Hays Travel, had hoped the company would sell through agents from the start of this year but admitted discussions had taken longer than expected while the busy peak sales period and technology updates had also delayed the roll-out.

So far Holiday Best has signed commercial deals with three consortia as well as miniples and stand-alone agencies.

Milburn said: “We are brand new to the market and conversations have taken a bit longer than I originally thought.

“We have spent the last eight weeks improving our B2B site and our plan is to get all our agents on to the portal in the next six weeks.

“We are now in active conversations with another two or three consortia and one or two homeworking groups.”

The company’s B2B bookable site is being trialled by some agencies prior to its full roll-out.

Milburn said he had already had positive feedback from agents and was confident the operator could capitalise on late summer demand from families, which make up 60% of current bookings.

He cited the exclusive flying programme and its keen hotel prices and £25 deposit offer as particular draws in the trade.

“We are focused on offering agents something they cannot get elsewhere,” he said, adding: “What’s been really nice is a lot of agents have looked at our site already, seen the prices and value for money proposition and asked to work with us. It’s back to the classic package holiday of 20 years ago and people love it.”

He added the company’s national advertising campaign earlier this year, which included ITV, outdoor, radio, and digital promotions, had already led to a “fantastic” response from consumers, with bookings split between its call centre and online.

“As a new business you have to build up trust. On some days in peaks we were getting 150 to 200 enquiries offline. The TV ad was a great success but social media has been our foothold in terms of driving traffic and conversions,” he said.

Milburn hopes agents will ultimately account for a minimum of 35% of sales. “A lot of consortia want to see if we deliver what we say we will. We are hoping there will be a ricochet effect [leading to increased sales].”

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