Face to Face: Suzel Taber-Shaw, Taber Holidays

We speak to the managing director of Taber Holidays on the Nordics and business.

Holidays to the Nordicsseem to be more popular, why do you think this has happened?
The biggest seller is the Northern Lights as the press has really jumped on it including the television programmes with Joanna Lumley. Now everyone wants to go and they know they need to be in Scandinavia as they want the winter holiday to continue. People want to see the Northern Lights but don’t always know which country so we suggest one to them.
Iceland has received bad press with its finance and volcanoes yet it is still the number one sexy destination of the Nordics. There is always a
fascination here and tourism continues to grow year-on-year.
Scandinavian food is very big as well as design including some big names such as Arne Jacobsen, Jeorg Jensen and Louis Poulson. The
area is known as being safe and there is no unrest, plus it is known for being so beautiful.

Amongst this there will have been an increase in competition, so what has Taber done to differentiate itself in terms of product, service and trade off ering?
We only feature Scandinavia so despite the competition people know we have that knowledge and we come up high on searches. We have the product knowledge and we have always worked with the trade as it’s very important to us. Taber Holidays recently joined AITO and
signed up to AITO Agents as they tend to be specialist and know their stuff. We are also working more on social media and the response from
these has been better than paid advertising. Some of our customers have seen comments on Facebook and Twitter and these are more
pro-active than others. We are also working on a newsletter which will be a magazine covering all of Scandinavia including designers and interviews to make an interesting read.
Our broad product range often goes past the brochure and website as we have agreements in place with most suppliers and also issue
public transport vouchers, so we can build that tailor-made side too. We hear about things sooner and many of the hotels are still owner-managed
by people in my generation so I know them very well and what is happening before others.

How has business been for Taber in the last year?
Last winter was the busiest ever as the Northern Lights were at their peak, which is to happen for three or four years. This winter is already
significantly up and people have been asking for 2012/13 since the previous season. Summer has been more subdued with the Olympics
but our research has actually shown we have a different clientele in each season. The vast amount of those who want to see the Northern Lights are sun seekers in the summer so they are looking for a different type of holiday. In the summer we get an older market that has not been
affected by the recession but are also helping out the youngsters so they are being more cautious.
We anticipate bookings will see a boost after Christmas and we will try to be ready with winter 2013/14. It originally took a while to encourage people to take in the winter activities (although we have never been a ski specialist) until the Joanna Lumley programme and then literally the next day we had hundreds of phone calls about it.

Have you noticed any booking trends?
In the past two or three years we have seen more combination city breaks including Copenhagen, Stockholm, Olso and Bergen. Nearly everyone travelling to the region wants to see Oslo and then not many venture into the countryside.
Scandinavia is also known as an outdoors and adventure destination and seen as healthy and robust, with our adventure and wildlife holidays
seeing the most online views at the moment. This is a new style of holiday and where we want to head as well.

What plans are in place for travel agents?
We are looking at developing holidays at preferential prices for travel agents. We give discounts already but could have holidays where we offer a bit more such as asking the hotelier to show the agent around. There would be a cost but at knock-down prices.
We are also working on an agents section of our website and the login part of our website.

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