Helen Johnson and Philippa Wilcox from Polka Dot Travel offered agents an insight into how they have managed to grow their High Street travel agencies from one to three branches in a short space of time at the recent Advantage conference in Bodrum, Turkey, with the key point being to acquire as many 'clean bookings' as possible.

Helen said: "People are so much busier in their day-to-day lives than ever before. We always strive to offer them what we call a 'clean booking' which essentially means looking after every component of their holiday - their fast track pass at the airport, airport hotel reservations or parking, business lounge access and attraction tickets for example. These ancillary sales have meant that we've boosted profit. If you can add £10 per passenger onto your bottom line then it soon adds up.

"Something that has helped us achieve this is by making sure we make it a habit of asking our customers if there is anything that they would really like for their holiday, and then we aim to make that happen for them."

Other factors contributing to the pair's success included getting online with social media, having brochures in their window to fit in with their sales tool and placing emphasis on staff training.

Philippa said: "We befriend customers at the brochure rack so there's no hard sell. We say something along the lines of: 'Would you like an idea of price today as brochures can be quite confusing?'. Getting the right staff is key to getting them to understand the customer. As part of our training, we would ask staff to tell us four things about the customer they have just served that wasn't holiday related. It's all about looking after your customers by getting to know their likes and dislikes."

Tony Mann from Idle Travel also highlighted how a revamp of his agency had seen numerous benefits including a positive impact on his team, more focus on the suppliers who were looking to support him and, ultimately, a younger clientele.

He said: "I needed to take an objective view of the business. I found out that my customers are loyal but they were not getting younger, and to take the business forward I couldn't rely on repeat visitors alone. Everything was planned, right down to the fixtures and fittings and I would spend hours scouring the shopping centres to get ideas on lighting and furniture. Now my business attracts lots more younger people, as well the repeat visitors and our average selling prices are up."

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