As we move tantalisingly close to the easing of travel restrictions, Gold Medal says agents can rest assured that it will be rushing to get them the best deals the moment the Government announces where we can travel and when.
It has a team on standby, prepping offers in case a destination opens up, and Marketing Director Kerry Gallagher says she’s confident these will be delivered to agents the same day an announcement is made.
Gold Medal is also hoping to encourage bookings for 2021 by reducing the cost of pre-departure Covid tests via a just-announced deal with Randox Health for its customers to receive home testing kits for a reduced price of £60 each.
Kerry brought Travel Gossip up to speed with the company’s other news.
How has Gold Medal supported agents during the pandemic?
Our message has been “travel is worth waiting for” and we’ve been helping agents to inspire their customers with videos on social media, ‘lift and shift’ content on our creative hub, and a huge range of magazines, destination guides and mini brochures.
We also supported agents by issuing credit notes for deposits on cancelled holidays, so customers can use transfer them to another holiday rather than agents losing those bookings.
For us, it’s all about supporting agents with both existing bookings that may need amending or cancelling, and also future bookings by providing agents with the tools they need to maximise every opportunity.
How are bookings for 2021?
A few months ago, the majority of our new bookings were for travel next year but as soon as the Prime Minister announced the travel ban might be lifted on 17 May we saw a shift back into 2021, mainly for September onwards.
We launched a ‘Sooner or Later’ campaign on the back of the PM’s announcement, showcasing one offer with two departure periods – 2021 (sooner) or 2022 (later), so customers could chose a departure they felt comfortable with. Our 2022 bookings are definitely higher than they would normally be at this time of year and we can see that there is a much stronger appetite for people to commit further ahead.
Travel might be possible this June, July and August, but it’s still uncertain so all of the offers we are promoting via marketing are for later in the year and into 2022.
What is Gold Medal doing to encourage customers to book?
We have introduced fully flexible bookings so if a customer changes their mind they can amend their holiday for free.
We don’t want to over-promise, our aim is to over-deliver. So we are having realistic conversations with agents about when certain destinations are likely to be open for international travel and are advising against bookings which seem too soon. Of course, no one has a crystal ball, but we’d rather be realistic at this point and save the customer any disappointment.
In January we launched our ‘More for Less’ campaign after we noticed that people weren’t necessarily looking for the cheapest holidays but they wanted added value instead, so we’re offering extras such as free transfers, upgrades and excursions. That’s proving really popular.
We know that Covid testing will be a barrier to travel so we’re working on a number of options, including providing customers with a code for discounted tests with Randox Health.
Which destinations are popular at the moment?
Florida, Dubai and the Maldives are by far are best-selling destinations right now. Both the Maldives and Dubai enjoyed a travel corridor and open borders before this most recent lockdown, so we’re seeing most bookings for late 2021 departures, whereas bookings for Florida are more for 2022.
What other trends have you spotted?
We’ve seen a massive increase in the sale of Florida villas and also villas and suites in the Maldives, probably because it will be easier for people to stay socially distanced if they have their own facilities.
We’re also seeing that people are looking to stay for longer, so we are selling more 10- and 14-night holidays. This means that people are spending more too.
How are UK cruises selling?
They’re certainly proving to be popular, especially because the cost of other UK staycations is soaring.
Avid cruise fans will be desperate to get on a cruise because for them it’s all about the onboard experience. It’s also a really easy opportunity for people who have never cruised before to try it out.
We’ve just launched our ‘Stay & Cruise’ online brochure so agents can see what the UK cruises offer. Some are visiting some really beautiful parts of the UK, such as the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Wight.
Are you optimistic for the future?
I’d say we’re cautiously optimistic and remain hopeful for a summer which involves international travel. The announcement from the Global Task Force on 9 April was a step in the right direction, but there is still more clarity needed, and the affordability of testing needs addressing. But it’s great that we have a network of agents who’ve been incredibly supportive and can’t wait to get customers travelling again.