Paula Waldeck, of House of Travel Hornby, says that modern customers have researched their trip but having consultation with an expert after that is seen as an advantage. ‘Clients want the reassurance, the interaction and the pleasure of creating a holiday together.’ The speakers felt that creating a new working environment is key to servicing customers and retaining employees. ‘We need to pay staff well, incentivise them but stay profitable. We may have to open longer and operate outside business hours to maintain our customer bases,’ says Waldeck. Trish Ryder, YOU Travel Manly, says the nine to five day for travel agents is dead. ‘My two top sellers work four days a week. You need to have flexible working hours with some people working later to suit what the clients want. ‘That’s what the younger generations want anyway, a fun environment with flexibility.’ Keith Sumner agrees travel employers need to take a refreshed approach to their team.
‘The experienced consultant is a rare commodity, there is burn out. So things like four-day weeks and working from home need to be looked at.’ He says that the value of famils, educational opportunities and professional development does not wear out. ‘But you have to let them (employees) participate in their kids’ lives. If something is not time critical then we don’t care when the work actually happens.’ Jason Buckley, helloworld Travel, suggests the key to retaining staff is an age old one. ‘Pay them well,’ he says. ‘It is also important to be developing and educating them to be better at what they do.