Majority of Advantage members gaining new clients from direct bookers

The overwhelming majority of Advantage Travel Partnership members have gained new customers as a result of the pandemic and are optimistic about the future, according to the consortium.

The group said 80% of its members have enjoyed an increase in new-to-agent business from customers who previously booked direct.

Addressing delegates at the Advantage conference in Madeira, chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said called the increase “phenomenal” and a result of the complexity of booking in the current market.

But she warned: “Every booking is however, more complex with, on average, a human touch by a consultant needed at least three times during the transaction process and we’re seeing this for all types of travellers both in business and leisure.”

The consortium also revealed 95% of members had told its recent member census they were optimistic about navigating their way out of the pandemic while recognising “significant challenges still lie ahead”.

Lo Bue-Said told delegates the challenges ranged from the cost-of-living to recruitment.

She said: “Since January demand has soared with many members experiencing sales comparable to pre pandemic trading, but you need to look under the skin to truly comprehend the lasting impact to the sector.

“Balance sheets have been decimated, there is increased business debt from maximising grants and CIBLS loans, and VAT deferrals which now need servicing.

“The cost-of-living crisis, challenging cashflow, merchant providers view of risk alongside how regulatory bond values are being set as well as ensuring we can regenerate travel with sustainability front of mind are all issues the industry is now facing.”

She added: “We’ve also seen the industry infrastructure buckle under the strain of recent travel surge through a combination of labour shortages, high Covid infection rates amongst staff, complex in-destination restrictions, flight changes, slow approval mechanisms for roles requiring security clearance and again this week passport shambles as confusion hits.”

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