Travelcare outlets all over the country are to get an image overhaul in an attempt to make the business more competitive, says Managing Director Mark Hale.
He told the News: “The face of travel is changing. People are travelling more and more and the key really is to adapt to that change.”
Mr Hale said: “People are coming back to us from the internet. Customers have found that the net doesn’t offer the same security as an ABTA-bonded agent like us.
If they book a low-budget flight and it gets cancelled they are stuck, whereas we can offer them support and get them home. Customers are now realising this.”
But Mr Hale pointed out that the stores needed to change in order to capitalise on this and lure customers back from the choice, cheap deals and budget airlines that are found on the internet. He said Travelcare outlets will alter on a cosmetic level and the services on offer will improve.
There is already a prototype Co-operative travel outlet up and running at Handforth, near Manchester. The space is modern and fresh and there are comfortable seating areas. Low partitions screen off each desk so customers can book their holiday in private and relax with a Fairtrade tea or coffee.
A plasma TV flashes up any holiday offers or flight deals, traditional handwritten cards are kept to a minimum. Useful services, like the Bureau de Change will be pushed into the foreground. There are also toys on offer to keep children amused.
All of the new initiatives are ‘green’. Mr Hale said: “All the changes are energy efficient and environmentally friendly, which is in line with Co-op principles.” People booking a holiday can even offset the carbon emmissions caused by travelling before they leave. Advisers will also be able to travel to see customers in their own homes.
Said Mr Hale: “As far as I’m aware, no other national travel agent offers this service.”
The business is also looking into offering a specialised wedding service for customers who want to get married abroad.
Customer feedback has been good so far and Mr Hale says managers would be “tweaking” the ideas to respond to this and really keep the customer happy. Early signs are promising.
Sales at the new-look Travelcare have already risen six points on sales compared to other branches. Re-furbished branches in Buxton and Milton Keynes are expected to open this month.
Mr Hale said the business is planning to roll-out the brand across branches over the next three months. He hoped the innovations will attract a more niche customer, people who aren’t just after a simple package holiday.
He said The Co-operative travel could offer the best service because of the range of products on offer. “Our competitors must envy our breadth of product,” said Mr Hale.
“We can offer a holiday that suits the customer, not just an own-brand package. We have empowered our people to delight the customer.”