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But post-Covid the annual break away will be more important than ever, according to Wirral travel expert Lezli Flaherty – and we’ll be using independent agents like her to tailor-make the best holidays and navigate the perils and pitfalls if things go wrong.
“I think we are going to go back to how it used to be, where people booked holidays with independent travel agents, after what we’ve seen with coronavirus this year,” says Lezli, 50.
“Of course there is protection for people who arrange holidays themselves, with organisations like ATOL, but we can offer further security, whether clients have booked accommodation on its own, a separate flight or a holiday package we’ve put together.
“If things go wrong as we’ve seen happen this year, we are there to fight on a customer’s behalf and do the leg work for them, at the very least to save them endless hours of waiting on the phone.
“And, while they might have difficulty getting through to someone or in touch with the right person or department, we often know who else we can contact, even reps in resorts, to escalate things where necessary.”
Lezli adds: “If people are booking now, we also know which countries we have a bridge with and which countries are facing difficulties and are to be avoided, so we can present the best options to those desperate to get away with as little hassle as possible.”
And she says: “What we have all realised more than ever now after Covid, is how important that holiday is.
“So when we are through the virus, or ready to pack our bags as the travel industry picks up – and it will – we are going to want to make sure it’s the best one ever!”
It’s sensible talk from Lezli who has come through her own coronavirus crisis, after being made redundant from an international travel company in August.
A former independent agent, Lezli had worked for Dnta Travel, part of the Emirates groups for the last seven years, firstly in operations and, for the last four years, training individuals who wanted to buy a franchise from the global travel group how to be an agent, from making bookings, sourcing bookings and looking after clients.
She explains: “I had been on furlough leave from April as everything went up in the air with Covid.
“I had been half expecting redundancy and built myself up to it and was looking at all the options, from looking at other jobs to setting up on my own.
“As it turned out a gentleman I had trained at the beginning of the year – who had joked if things didn’t work out I could always go and work for him – got in touch and asked if I wanted to join forces with him. So, I bought into the business with 49% of shares and became a partner in The Holiday Hub.
“The travel industry is struggling overall at the moment,” says Lezli, “but people do want to go away when they can and so it will get better.”
Things are already going well for Lezli and she has been organising holidays already for a number of clients.
“I’m in the middle of arranging one holiday for a family of four with a budget of £20,000 this Christmas,” she smiles. “But many of them are being booked for next year when people are more confident about going away. I didn’t set out to concentrate on high-end, luxury holidays but that’s how it’s worked out so far.
“The beauty of booking with an independent agent – apart from the protection – is that customers can say what they want from a holiday, what they’re looking for and we can find it.
“We can suggest the destination and resort, and even come up with alternatives that will fit the bill for the budget.
“If it’s a family holiday I will look at whether there’s an aquapark attached, I’ll look at the Balearics, Turkey, or Canaries, for instance.
Back for 2020 with Gold Standard health and safety Covid-19 measures, @LivXmasIceFest is returning to Pier Head! 🎄⛸️
— The Guide Liverpool (@TheGuideLpool) September 28, 2020
“If people want a beach holiday I might look at the Greek islands or even long-haul destinations, people can be surprised what they can afford and where. Having booked a lot of holidays, we know where to look and where to go for inspiration, and we can add extra elements through negotiation so that we effectively create bespoke holidays.
“I create an e-brochure then for people to look at and decide.”
Lezli says, when choosing a holiday, travellers should look at budget, features or type of holiday they want, then resorts and destinations and type of accommodation before they begin.
Right now she would advise people booking a holiday to:
1. Be aware of the situation and that it can change
2. Book with an agent to get more security and protection, and more choice of holiday
3. Don’t go for your first option, look around
4. Decide what type of holiday you want and then look at details of what’s offered at different destinations
5. Once you have settled on a resort look at at least three properties, from low to mid and high range to see what you get, and whether it’s value for money.
“We all need a holiday from time to time and, now, more than ever. It’s a chance for a change and to relax and/or recharge our batteries, and the benefits to our physical and mental health are huge.
“People want and need a holiday and the travel industry is waiting to come back and, when it does, it will be with a bang.”
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