The reality of running a travel agency through COVID-19, why we are ‘pausing’ on new 2020 bookings for now, and how we are changing to an appointment-only system…
How COVID Burst Our Travel Bubble
In May 2019, with a head full of ideas and a passion for travel burning bright, I opened Footprint Travel’s new premises in Prestwich for the first time. A huge and daunting jump from homeworking, but I knew it was the right move for me and the business. Somehow, everything felt just right, and as I opened the shutters for the first time and switched on our neon sign, I could have exploded with pride.
Fast forward less than 12 months, and we find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with a travel ban since mid-March which has impacted my business beyond comprehension. Over the course of the past 5 months, every single booking that I have poured hours into meticulously researching and booking for my many wonderful clients has been cancelled, leaving so many adventurous travellers totally broken-hearted. And with the ever-changing government advice, confusion over regulation and heighening pressure from the media, complete chaos has descended upon othe world of travel.
What has ensued is many months of long days on-hold to operators, navigating our way through these ‘unprecedented times’ (as we are so often told) to find alternative arrangements, or get our customers’ money back to them as quickly as possible. As an independent travel agent who works with hundreds of different operators, each with their own T&Cs, adhering to numberous different airline policies, and with staff from all sides on furlough, this has by no means been an easy feat, but getting the right outcome for each and every customer has been my absolute priority. Yes, there have been many sleepless nights, frustrated tears (mine) and weekend panics as FCO advice takes yet another U-turn, but somehow, I am finding my way through (with the unwaivering help of some truly outstanding industry suppliers whose support will never be forgotten).
Finding Our New Normal
What I have come to realise as we arrive into August (usually our busiest month for departures) is that despite my yearning for ‘normal’, I cannot change what has happened, or how long it will take for travel to get back to where it once was. What I can control in the mean time is my own actions, and what I can do to make sure that my little business survives this storm. Whilst travel advice continues to change on what feels like a weekly basis, I have made the decision not to sell any further travel for 2020 until I am fully confident that new arrangements I make for customers will go ahead as expected. This is not because I don’t want or need the business (quite the opposite, and I am so very grateful for the enquiries for late bookings I have received over recent months), but because each new booking that results in a cancellation in turn costs the business more and more money in the fees we pay, and so much extra time to resolve. After 5-months of working for free, I have to take a step back and protect my own peace first and foremost, so that I am still here booking amazing holidays once this tricky time has passed.
So, what on earth are we going to do if we aren’t booking holidays right now?! Answer: Loads of things!
2021 Holidays and Beyond
While we ‘wait and see’ on those 2020 departures, my primary focus will now be on getting your holidays booked for 2021 and beyond. We are already seeing availability reducing for key dates next year and prices increasing with the demand, so I will be working with my clients to make sure they can secure exactly the holiday they want for next year before it is too late. We are seeing some great prices on out-of-date-range flights into 2022, so even if it feels a long way off, do let me know if I can help with a future holiday you’ve been dreaming about.
A New Appointment-Only Approach
Further to this, the Footprint Travel office in Prestwich will now run on an appointment-only system, and will open exclusively for these pre-booked appointments. This is to allow me time outside of appointments to focus on planning for the business, lots of learning and development, travel writing, networking, some other new projects, and of course some personal time to recover a little from the last 5-months of utter madness. You will still see me in the office a fair bit, but please don’t be disappointed if you pop down for a visit and we are closed if you haven’t booked ahead.
I have always believed that every customer deserves my undivided attention whilst we discuss your holiday, in complete privacy, free of distractions and interruptions, so I am really excited to make private appointments a permanent new feature at Footprint.
You can pre-book your appointment online via our appointment-booker. I understand that the appointment slots on our system may not suit everyone’s schedule, and am happy to open for evening and Saturday appointments on-request. To arrange out-of-hours appointments, please just give me a call and I can organise this for you 0161 711 0553.
Finding New Ways To Use Our Work Space
Whilst travel is on hold and my hours in the office space temporarily reduce, I will be exploring alternative ways I can use our space to keep the cogs of our little business turning. If you are a local business or group who needs a temporary space for a workshop, a meeting venue, or just a desk with good Wi-Fi and tea and coffee on-tap, please get in touch as I am open to all possibilities that help keep us afloat.
Thank you, so very much
Thank you to everyone for understanding that I’m doing my best, that this is a situation that myself and my operators have never encountered before (and hope to never encounter again) and that often there is a chain to get refunds back to customers which can be more complex than it appears. I am always working with your best interests at heart, so thank you for your continued patience and kindness through this strange time.
If you have had a holiday affected by COVID-19 which I have sorted for you, (or if you’ve encountered great service from me at ANY time for that matter), I would be so very grateful if you could leave a review on the Footprint Travel Facebook Page or on Google For Business. Personal recommendations mean everything to me, and really help this small business to thrive.
One day soon, we will get our wanderlust, our sense of adventure, and our spontaneity to travel to new destinations back with aplomb, and I will be here ready to help find you the perfect trip when that time comes.
Thanks for reading – if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org