Comment: We are taking steps in the right direction

Summer hopes may not be that bright but we are moving forward, says Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson

In recent weeks, it has felt like the travel industry has taken a step in the right direction.

We are halfway through the summer holidays in Northern Ireland and most of our clients have spent the past two summers at home.

The fabulous July weather may have given a false sense of security that our summer staycations would be basked in southern Europe-like sunshine for years to come.

But, while I shouldn’t really be smiling to myself, our fabulous rain and unpredictable weather give me confidence that the holidaymakers of our great nation will not bank on our usually unpredictable weather for their much-needed break in 2022.

September hopes

A lot of clients have already given up on summer vacations this year, but September brings us an opportunity with those customers who want to be sure their next winter or summer break is in the diary.

We need a good September in our businesses. We all need sales in before the furlough scheme ends at the end of next month. We need the finances and cashflow to keep those bills paid. The government doesn’t seem to be listening to our plight, no matter how hard we knock on their door.

Until a few years ago, we traded on a 10-month basis to meet targets, because November and December sales were a lost cause with Christmas looming. Pre-Covid, that changed and we had some pretty OK winter month sales. I’m hoping we have that again this winter.

I really haven’t had much hope lately that the remainder of this summer season will be fruitful for us, and we truly haven’t pressed clients for bookings although a trickle has kept us positive.

I’m not sure if my stance is because I’m sick and tired of changing information or because I’m already focusing on forward bookings.

Last week’s traffic light announcements – particularly that the fully-vaccinated returning from France and Spain will be quarantine-free – has given us a sense that we’ve taken a step in the right direction, and with all our expertise we will be building consumer confidence in travel again.

Consumer confidence

Are you finding that consumers have no idea of our role? Over the past few months, I have become bone‑weary with the number of phone calls from people seeking our advice but with no intention of booking with us!

At the outset of this 18-month disaster, we politely helped all we could; now, we politely advise them to contact the provider directly. We are not tourist information! These are the type of consumers we want to realise that they need to return to booking with experts.

For those who have travelled in recent months, I am so thankful, as their experiences have been positive. They are our best form of marketing at the moment. They instil confidence in others to do the same.

Our doors are open. Our staff are ready. Our suppliers support us and all we can do is work towards the fantastic future our industry can have if consumers shop local, support us and want the holidays we are eagerly waiting to sell them.

Agent Achievement Awards shortlisting is a massive boost

Being shortlisted for Travel Weekly’s 2021 Agent Achievement Awards in September has given everyone here a massive boost in morale. It’s a nice piece of positive news that has contributed to the feeling that the industry is taking a step in the right direction.

Thank you to all the suppliers who nominated us for the award for regional agency of the year in Northern Ireland. In our eyes, and as Travel Weekly pointed out in its launch of the awards, every single agent that has worked through this past 18 months deserves praise.

Cheers to us all, and I look forward to the hugs at the in-person event in London on September 16.

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