Hello and welcome to the first ever Omega Travel blog.
The idea is to give you the customer an insight into the ever changing world of travel.
I will start by telling you about some of my earliest travel agent memories and how that compares against the modern version.
I still remember nervously entering the small travel agency on Manchester Street in Oldham for the first time in the summer of 1980.
It was in all honesty what could only be best described as a ‘poky little shop’ and yet at that time served the local community rather well (this was well before the duel carriageway ruined trade for a host of local shops).
It did however possess a certain charm and attracted a wide and eclectic mix of clients from Mr W who once ‘slightly’ wet the chair he was sitting on after excitedly telling us about his coach holiday to Mr S who paid for his five figure holidays in cash.
This is a large sum of money nowadays never mind then and taking that amount of cash to the bank was always a little intimidating.
The latest technology then was who had the best phone system.
Hard to believe now but only one tour operator had a system in place where you could make a booking with a keyboard and screen.
Everyone else was a phone call away. At busy times that meant you literally had a phone to your ear from 0830-1730.
Some Tour Operators were friendlier than others. On one memorable occasion I was trying to make a last minute booking to one of the Greek Islands with a (sadly) long gone company called Grecian Holidays.
As my client wanted to book the holiday but had to go and get the cash off the ‘Mrs’ it meant I had to call back.
The delicious sounding girl on the other end of the phone in a deadpan voice made me promise to ring back and ask for her ‘The Mother Superior’…… bloody hell!
The good part of talking to staff at the Tour Operators meant of course that you got to know them all (good and bad).
In time this proved to be very useful for all concerned as a quick phone call to the right contact in the right place could help with a problem or help in getting a valued client a little extra something to add value to a holiday.
Of course that personal touch although not gone completely is much harder to find now in the age of online booking and most online companies are only too happy to make a charge for any amendments you have to make and worse in my view have lost that ’human’ aspect of the job.
There are exceptions to this and thankfully the team and I still have a good contact base of reps with airlines and hotel groups who are usually more than happy to help us help the customer.
Most travel agencies back in the day would usually be staffed by young people in the range of 18-25 with an older manager.
Now most travel shops (particularly the independents) have should we say a more mature staff who are generally well travelled and experienced enough to know how to research and find you that holiday you’ve been thinking about for months.
The look of our current shop is very different to the one I first walked into.Gone are the cheap looking brochures, functional chairs, untidy desks (actually I’ve kept that one) and phones constantly ringing.
This has been replaced by a bright modern shop with up to date technology, comfortable seats (and sofas!) to sit on, brochures that are like upmarket coffee table books (with prices to match mind you) and the gentle whirr of various computers doing their thing.
There is a constant though (at least in our shop).
The staff are the same friendly faces who were there years ago.
You only realise how much older you are getting when you make a booking for a young guy (or gal) who are going away inevitably somewhere warm and then you realise that this adult in front of you was originally taken away with his parents as a baby all those years ago and sometimes just sometimes you remember that booking.
The personal touch…….you can’t beat it.