It seems that 2010 has started quite briskly for many travel agents, and certainly tour operators are sounding positive. Busines has been coming in but the question is how much of that is due to the freezing weather conditions that the UK has been encountering, and how much is recovery or low prices? It seems short breaks are doing well, Canada is doing very well, and short haul ski has been slower than expected....perhaps due to the snowy conditions here or maybe the recession biting.
i'm hearing that the weather is almost helping late sales sure. Trouble is, the weather is also stifling flight programmes which means people are reluctant to book in case they are unable to get to the airport, or the flight is cancelled. Huge number of people searching for sunshine online though, more than ever before apparently. I understand that the Canaries, Spain and Egypt are being searched for in big numbers, and it looks like the February half term will be a sell-out both for ski and beach holidays. Good news for Scotland with the best snow they have had for years and the ski resorts making hay while it lasts. This is, of course, also good news for those bed and breakfast and hotel providers locally, who can enjoy the boost in demand.
It is freezing today. Spoke to Lucy at Visions Holiday Group (www.visionsofafrica.co.uk) who is attending the AiTO Specialist Travel Agents conference at Warwick in two week-ends time. This is always a good quality week-end but it seems not as many agents as normal are attending this year - I have heard this now from a few operators. Still, it is a good chance to make some useful contacts from both a travel agent and a tour operator's perspective. Also catch up today with Yasmina whom I used to work with. She is now plying her trade at Mosaic Holidays (www.mosaicholidays.co.uk) and learning about new destinations while still being able to use her expertise on Egypt and Jordan. I recall one time when she had a client who had booked an holiday but was refusing to take travel insurance - a mystery to me why people would travel without holiday insurance, and definitely grounds for cancelling from a tour operator's point of view. The law states that operators should advise clients they must have comprehensivetravel insurance and they must have a procedure in place for doing so. The big two ask for the policy number. But if someone refuses to take any insurance and tells you they are not doing so, I would urge you to take a stand and cancel their holiday. Look what happened to poor Martha Lane-Fox, founder of lastminute.com and multi-millionaire - when in a road accident involving a taxi in Morocco, she did not have insurance, treatment in hospital was delayed until it was proven that she could cover costs, and it set her recovery back forever. "Duty of care" can bite you and be very costly, potentially.
Well, it was late but the new year rush happened. The retail stores on the high street opened their doors early with the sales beginning before new year again, and New Year's Day becoming a real shopping day - seems to have lost the notion of being a Bank Holiday. The freezing cold snap has certainly kicked in but in the south, we seem to have escaped much of the snow that the north has had. Saw Lisa Price today, formerly of Flying Eagles, whom I have worked with briefly in the past but who is a good friend that has been unwell for a long time. Her mind is still incredibly sharp and it is good to run ideas by her - though sometimes her honesty can appear a little too honest......if you don't want the truth, don't ask....as they say. Finished writing an article for a regional paper today and also completed writing a whole programme for a tour operator starting holidays to destinations they have not previously touched. Also found them ground agents to work with, whom I have had personal experience of working with before and know of others whom they currently work with and are very happy with their service. There are many of them out there, so if anyone is looking to start new destinations in Europe, Middle East and Africa, do let me know.Hope you have all had a fabulous festive period and are enjoying the week-end before returning to reality. I wish you all a happy and healthy new year.
For anyone who might happen to read this blog, Merry Christmas. Seems strange, the snow has cleared and there has been a massive rush for last minute new year holidays. Of course, those with availability are hiking up the prices (why not, they probably lose enough money on other dates) and it appears that half the nation is busy making the most of the sales that are available online right now. There are clearly huge numbers of people internet shopping today at big stores, as people I've spoken to today have told me a consistent story: "some great online bargains to be had, but by the time you get to the checkout page, most or all of what is in your basket is already out of stock." Well, perhaps you didn't really need it anyway, but what about all those January holidays that are going unsold - shouldn't they be on those department store websites too?
Caught up in the snow today. Spend 2.5 hours in the car with two 3 year olds desperate for the toilet having been to the theatre to see Jack and the Beanstalk. Talk to Sabina at Mosaic Holidays www.mosaicholidays.co.uk who has been trying to assist former Libra Holidays clients. I discover thatTamara (www.2-a-tee.co.uk) who built my website took 9.5 hours to get home due to the weather conditions. Good job I didn't moan then.
Sadly, the rumours prove to be true. The rumours of huge debts to hotels in Egypt and Cyprus, clearly have some substance to them and the CAA has been called in to assist. A shame - this was once a smashing company with household brands like Goldenjoy being taken under their wing and destroyed, quite frankly. I'm sorry for Costas as he is a good chap and I hope that he will find new employment quickly. As for those people due to travel today to Taba and Taba Heights and to Sharm tomorrow, well, they will lose their holiday or find an alternative. This must present an opportunity for companies like Peltours who have a shared aircraft to Taba with them today. They should be able to salvage people's holidays and offer them an alternative - or even exactly the same holiday. Yes, granted people will have to pay again, but that is a small price to pay for turning up at the airport with luggage and passports to find they have no holiday. Don't forget, they will be able to gain a refund (eventually) from the Civial Aviation Authority. So, will someone be at the airport offering them to re-book.......I know it is what I'd have done, but then I'm not there, I'm here and it really is none of my business. Sometimes you just have to know when to let go........... Having said all this, the snowy weather may not allow anyone to go anywhere, including the airports today.
There's rumours about the stability (or not) of one of the better-known tour operators out there, not for the first time. Once rumours start, it is very hard to silence them other than through a positive set of results, and this does not seem forthcoming. With the Xmas and new year holidays upon us, now is not the time for a company to go under, so let's hope they prove unfounded.
Once again, British Airways is facing a winter of discontent - or at least their customers are. There seem to be many differing versions of what was actually voted for, and how long the strike was/is supposed to be, but times are tough and people are fighting for their rights. However, we are all suffering and why shouldn't cabin crew hurt a little too? What we don't hear are all the proposed changes in their working conditions, so let's not judge too quickly. Hopefully, people will be able to enjoy their holidays in the sunshine or the snow and get home to share Christmas with their families. Strike or no strike, British Airways has been further dented.
I speak to John Dixon of Prestige Holidays today - he is someone whose views I listen to as has been in the industry a long time, and is a wise old owl. Also catch up with Jason Dicks of Serenity - a smashing chap working for a good company seems to have the Gambia and Cape Verde markets sewn up. Serenity have attended many BRIGHT roadshows and Jason performs his magic (he is a member of his local Magic Circle) during these training evenings - hugely entertaining.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that when Paddy Power bookmaker made Globespan a favourite to go bust following the demise of Excel Airways in September 2008, that Globespan would eventually collapse. It is very sad and probably a tale of woe preceeded it, but I do know that when we holiday in Portugal each September, we meet many Scots who travel with Globespan and tell us how little they paid. Could be a clue there somewhere. Feel sorry for the people left stranded and due to fly, but once again the government should shoulder the blame and cost - after all, scheduled airlines are not subject to the same bonding requirements and client guarantees that UK tour operators are - many people probably do not even realise they have lost their money yet.