Agents ‘poised to snatch up UK lates market’

There are spontaneous bookers that agents could target
There are spontaneous bookers that agents could target

Travel agents have been urged to become savvier to selling UK breaks as tour operators switch their marketing tactics to meet challenges.

Operators said agents have the chance to be there for customers that are spontaneous and book up a last minute short break, as 26% of shorter stays are sold seven days before travel.

Simon Altham, managing director of Hoseasons said: “Short breaks and last minute breaks seem to go hand in hand and Hoseasons is a short breaks brand now. We’ve seen an increase in short breaks as there is still interest as people are feeling the pinch, so those that would normally have seven nights in the UK have shortened their stay. There are also many people booking a second, third or fourth holiday though and as things recover the UK is well poised to capitalise on those extra bookings. In terms of late we saw a 20% increase in half term bookings taken in the same week.

“Potentially the trend is that we are being more spontaneous and I do think the industry is poised to capitalise on this. It’s easy to book a holiday on Thursday and head off on Friday in the UK than it is to go overseas,” he added.

The companies are also looking at weather patterns more often to switch their marketing tactics.

Neil Davies, head of trade sales at Bourne Leisure said: “Research shows people that holiday in the UK will book, it’s just a matter of when. Through analysis with a partner that specialises in weather forecasting we’ve been able to pick up some trends and that’s helped us identify when we can give additional marketing support to not only the trade but consumer press. So that when the weather is nice in January or February and people think ‘the weather isn’t that bad after all’ they will commit.”

Agents have already been growing their domestic business following campaigns from VisitEngland in the past two years.

Its Holidays at Home promotion generated GBP380 million in additional holiday spend and 5.5 million room nights in two years, with agents telling the tourism board they have seen an impact on interest and sales.

Increased packaging of domestic holidays with attraction, event or theatre tickets has also boosted the sector.

Shearings commercial director Caroline Brown and SuperBreak’s sales and product director Jane Atkins both said sporting events and television programmes have driven bookings for the companies.

Davies encouraged agents to get talking about events with customers and that the positive delivery of events such as the Olympics and Tour de France puts more confidence in the UK product and service.

Louise Stewart, strategy and development director at VisitEngland said: “Domestic travel is driven by shorter breaks taken more often. This isn’t just something where people are looking to say money, as the growth has mainly come from affluent customers. That indicates there are other indicators to domestic tourism growth than just economic. The industry has risen to challenges it has faced recently and challenges faced to it.”

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